Romance is the debut CD by Austrian singing wunderkind and Mark Murphy protege Simone Kopmajer, who sings with a maturity that belies her age of 23. Two things that immediately struck this listener were Kopmajer's good taste and her acute ear. By acute ear, I mean her sensitivity to what is going on around her musically, for Simone Kopmajer is not just a singer, she is a musician who just happens to sing.
She starts off her album with "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?," a song that in most incarnations is presented as sheer schlock. But Kopmajer keeps things understated and never gets ahead of the rhythm section. This is a singer who understands that the best way to swing is to lay back of the beat a little. This rhythmic patience is seen in all of her performances on the album and is illustrative of a very gifted and mature musician. She has definitely taken to heart the lessons taught by her mentor, Mark Murphy.
Pianist's John di Martino's arrangements are ideally suited to Kopmajer's vocal talents. I especially like his arrangement of "Exactly Like You," which features a bass line taken from Miles Davis' "All Blue." Of course, it only makes sense to feature the bass prominently when you have at hand the services of the incomparable George Mraz. Di Martino's scoring expertise is likewise featured in "The Way You Look Tonight," which gets a Latin makeover with an impressionistic chordal intro.
Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander was another ideal choice for this album. His musical sensibilities perfectly match Kopmajer's. His solos on "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "Where or When" are nothing short of magnificent.
Kopmajer also knows her way very well around Brazilian music. She gives an excellent interpretation to Jobim's "Someone to Light Up My Life" ("Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Voce") and the bossa nova arrangement of "A Blossom Fell." And given her flawless and unaccented English, it wouldn't be too surprising if someday she does the same with the original Portuguese lyrics.
Simone Kopmajer is a first-rate talent and a gifted musician, and her singing is a real joy to behold. Judging from this album, we're going to be hearing a lot from her in the future.
Track Listing: How Do You Keep the Music Playing?; A Blossom Fell; We Kiss in a Shadow; Calling You; Whatever Happens; Exactly Like You; Someone to Light Up My Life; The Way You Look Tonight; A Time for Love; Where or When; Just Squeeze Me; Whatever Happens (Reprise)
Personnel: Simone Kopmajer, vocals; John di Martino, piano and all arrangements; George Mraz, bass; Tim Horner, drums; Eric Alexander, tenor sax