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Toft-Olsen: Special

Jakob Baekgaard By

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Danish jazz singer and crooner, Hans Toft-Olsen, broke through with his second album, Four (Aarhusart, 2018), after releasing his debut with the pop-oriented, Kinky Beat (Aarhusart, 2017). While Toft-Olsen found his voice as a jazz singer on the second album, the debut still contains a fair number of gems. One of them, "Special," is now the title track of his third album.

The tune is an original composition by Toft-Olsen with lyrics by Mark Davies. They collaborated on the debut and Davies returns as a lyricist on Special that mixes original compositions with tried and tested standards like "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "Where or When" and "When I Fall in Love."

As the choice of songs indicates, the overall mood of the album is romantic, but to Toft-Olsen it's also about special relations in a wider sense, as he says: "All of the songs on the album are about encounters with something special at different stages in life. What is special is alluring. We ourselves are all unique, therefore we are also special and alluring. We all fit in somewhere, and our time will come. It's important not to emulate our role models too much, because it can alter our behaviour. We shouldn't be like others, we should strive towards being ourselves."

While the sensually soft interpretation of "I Fall in Love Too Easily" leans closely to Chet Baker's version with hushed, horn-like phrases, the personal stamp on a song is found in the deep and balanced interpretation of a standard like "Where or When." It avoids Frank Sinatra's dramatic crescendo and instead Toft-Olsen delivers an ethereal lullaby. He is tastefully accompanied by the bell-like sound of Heine Hansen's piano and the sweet whisper of drummer Morten Lund's brushes.

The trio has a close understanding of Toft-Olsen's voice with bassist Thomas Vang as the fluid foundation. Together they share a sophisticated musicality that is not too solemn to indulge in the irresistible, whistling jazz-pop pleasure of "Maybe I'm Too Blind to See," a bona fide radio hit.

Toft-Olsen comes across as a singer in total control of his voice, it's no coincidence that he is a praised voice teacher, but fortunately he does not descend into pure vocal pyrotechnics. Instead, he often finds subtle layers in a song. He knows that Chaplin's famous "Smile" is just as much about hidden tears as it is a careless proclamation of joy. Toft-Olsen recognizes the singular potential of the songs he sings, whether they are standards or his own compositions. His mission of finding the memorable moments in a song succeeds on Special.

Track Listing: I Fall in Love Too Easily; Special; Maybe I'm Too Blind to See; All of You; Giving It to My Baby; When I Fall in Love; Take It Easy; Where or When; Fascinating Rhythm; Smile.

Personnel: Hans Toft-Olsen: vocal; Heine Hansen: piano; Thomas Vang: bass; Morten Lund: drums.

Title: Special | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Aarhusart

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