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Elisabeth Lohninger Quartet: Live

C. Michael Bailey By

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Austrian-American Renaissance woman Elisabeth Lohninger is many things. She is a singer, composer, producer, writer, teacher and studio owner. Over the past several years Lohninger has found time to record four collections with her quartet: Beneath Your Surface (Lofish, 2005), The Only Way Out is Up (Lofish, 2007), Songs of Love and Destruction (Lofish, 2010), and Christmas in July (Jazz Sick, 2011). All of these recordings were well conceived and received, and the fate of the present Live should be no different.

Recorded during her European tour in the Czech Republic, Live displays most clearly Lohninger's evolution as a producer as well as a singer. Song selection and order programming are important and often unconsidered facets of recording, for both studio and especially live tapings. The song order on Live may or may not accurately reflect a Lohninger concert, but it does reflect the songs included as Lohninger conjures a collection of standards, "new" standards, R&B and original compositions that are as tasteful as they are well-balanced. Lohninger's growth into a first-rate composer and singer through her first four recordings reaches full realization on Live.

The set opens with The Beatles' "Here There and Everywhere," from Revolver (Capitol, 1966). Pianist Walter Fishbacher kicks the modern classic off elegantly with block chords before Lohninger enters, and the time turns to a modified waltz as the melody reveals itself in the singer's sturdy, pliant and wistful alto. The pianist also solos in duet with drummer Ulf Stricker, playing the best post-bop this side of Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams. The light bossa nova of Lohninger's "Si Me Quieres" is one of three pieces from Songs of Love and Destruction, perfectly capturing the singer's approach to repertoire selection. Also included is Joni Mitchell's folk-inspired "The River." Lohninger captures the nuances of Mitchell's phrasing very well without losing her voice to the singer/songwriter, while the original "La Puerta" is again sung in Lohninger's excellent Spanish/Portuguese.

The disc highlight is a bluesy reading of "Black Coffee," where Lohninger shows off a vocal elasticity reminiscent of Betty Carter. Fischbacher does a respectful Gene Harris crossed with Red Garland here, achieving the most solid performance on the disc. Lohninger's vocalese on saxophonist Charlie Parker's "Anthropology," coupled with Fischbacher's swing into pianist Martial Solal's impressionistic orbit elevate this piece to showstopper. The sincere delivery on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and aggressive angular momentum on "Georgia on My Mind" tie the perfect ribbon around this excellent offering. Good show!

Track Listing: Here, There and Everywhere; Si Me Quieres; Black Coffee; Anthropology; River; La Puerta; Not While I’m Around; Hallelujah; There She Goes; Georgia on my Mind.

Personnel: Elisabeth Lohninger: vocals, piano (8); Walter Fishbacher: piano; Petr Dvorsky: bass; Ulf Stricker: drums.

Title: Live | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Lofish Music

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