Austrian-American musicians Elisabeth Lohninger and Walter Fischbacher have been an integral part of the New York City jazz community for closing in on 20 years. In that time, the creative pair have contributed to the urban musical terrain by running their Lofish Recording Studios until 2015 and releasing a series of well-received recordings. These include: Beneath the Surface
(Lofish, 2004); The Only Way Out is Up
(Lofish, 2007); Songs of Love and Destruction
(Lofish, 2010); Christmas in July
(Lofish, 2011), and Elisabeth Lohninger Quartet: Live
In 2014, Fischbacher released a trio recording, sans Lohninger, Dreamcatcher
(Jazz Sick Records) before rejoining her for the cosy duo recording Elisabeth Lohninger & Walter Fischbacher: Ballads in Blue
(Jazz Sick Records, 2015); and the quartet recording Eleven Promises
(Jazz Sick Records, 2016).
Returning to the duo format, Lohninger and Fischbacher presently provide a recital of mostly original compositions seasoned with two Beatles classics, Soul Garden
. Composing alone or with Fischbacher, Lohninger's ear for melody and intellect for smart lyrics have few peers. Add to this a warmly centered alto voice, well captured here, and a complete package of delight emerges. Soul Garden
is less a jazz recording than a vocal music
recording. Lohninger uses jazz techniques in music of a much wider appeal. This is music for grown-ups dealing with grown-up things: love, the environment, the Beatles.
Speaking of the Beatles, Lohninger and Fischbacher knock the bottom out of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gentle Weeps" and an up tempo reading of Kim Ratcliffe and Artie Roth's arrangement of "Blackbird." Lohninger's voice is as confident and mellow as Fischbacher's playing is percussive and dynamic. These covers offer a melodic and harmonic context for the remainder of the recording, emphasizing the creative threads allowing the total recital to adhere. They also frame the pair's strengths in smart production and programming.
The recordings highpoints include a reprise of "Take My Picture While I'm Smiling," featured previously on Eleven Promises
. Presented here, one can hear a parsing of Ray Charles
, Elton John
, and Randy Newman
in Fischbacher churchy playing, which give the piece a tangible gospel feel to go with Lohninger's mature phrasing. Just when you think there is no jazz, the pair detonate "Rooster Blues," a grand example of vocalese on an original recording. Lohninger's singing is impressively precise and engaging. These same characteristics are taken even further on the pair's arrangement of European folksongs on "Folksongs." "A Little Tricky but Not That Hard," allows Lohninger to find the bottom of her alto while the superb "Another Earth" makes a potent statement using a clever arrangement and smart lyrics. Soul Garden
is an immediately enjoyable recording that should appeal to a wide variety of listeners. It is well recorded and engineered, allowing a clear aural picture of the talents that are Lohninger and Fischbacher.