Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Voice to be Savored on Sinne Eeg's "Dreams"

Sinne Eeg Dreams  Artist Share AS0153
At forty years of age, the Danish singer Sinne Eeg is among that rare breed vocalists that can take anything they sing and make it their own. She has a voice to be savored. A force to be reckoned with in her native Scandinavia, her work is little known here in the US. The most recent recording Dreams is just her second release here despite nine outings as a leader. What immediately grabs you about her voice is the natural effortlessness with which she sings. Eeg has a warm supple tone, a wide range, exquisite control and an inherent sense of swing and phrasing that is impeccable. She cites Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughn as influences, and one can certainly find some traces of their styles in her voice, but make no mistake, she is clearly on her own path and it is a refreshing one at that.

Her first US release was a duo album Eeg-Fonnesbaek from 2015 that she did with accomplished Danish double-bassist Thomas Fonnesbaek. The album’s darkly sparse treatment of some of the classics from the Great American Songbook, with Eeg’s gloriously fluid and tonally transcendent voice playing off Fonnesbaek’s warm, bellowing bass was deservedly well received.

Dreams, which just came out in December, took a different tact. It was recorded in Brooklyn, NY in January of 2017. It utilizes the multiple voices of  a very talented backing quartet.  The musicians are some of jazz’s crème de la crème, with the stellar rhythm section of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Joey Baron, the always tasty Larry Koonse on guitar and her longtime collaborator fellow Dane, Jacob Christoffersen holding down the piano chair. If Eeg was hoping to expand her audience on this side of the pond or for that matter around the world, then Dreams should certainly go a long way to achieving that goal.

Of the ten featured songs on the album, two are by Cole Porter, one by Rodgers and Hart and one by Gene De Paul, the remaining six are all Eeg originals and quite compelling.  The opener “The Bitter End” is a slow-cooked, funky blues that features Colley’s bass and Christoffersen’s piano, with Eeg’s expressive voice shining through with authenticity and feeling.

The perky “Head Over High Heels,” written by Eeg and Mads Mathias, has a musical theater, dance-like quality to it.  Eeg’s considerable scat abilities are on display as she and Colley parry in a complementary dialogue that is both slippery and simpatico.

Eeg’s “Love Song” is a torchy ballad that is gorgeously sung with a melancholic expressiveness and also features a gossamer guitar solo by Larry Koonse.

Listening to Eeg and drummer Joey Baron on the imaginative intro to the well-worn Porter standard “What is This Thing Called Love,” is to hear the song with new ears. The walking bass of Colley and the swinging piano of Christoffersen enter the fray with just enough juice to re-energize this classic. Baron’s traps are buoyant and Eeg’s vocals are facile and flawless.

On Richard Rodgers “Falling in Love with Love,” the singer, bassist and guitarist play like a well-oiled trio of seasoned instrumentalists.  Eeg’s vocal scatting is glass-like, so integrated with the music as to be seamless- sliding in and out of the group interplay with ease- you almost forget she’s singing until she returns to the lyrics. Koonse picks another masterful solo.

On the title song “Dreams,” Eeg goes totally wordless, instead using impressionistic vocalization. The song has a nebulous feel to it and Christoffersen’s piano has a  Jarrett influence to it, lightly skipping over the melody, with the rhythm section gently pushing the music along.

As if being such an accomplished vocalist isn’t enough, Eeg’s “Aleppo,” a song she wrote inspired by seeing images of the child victim who was tragically washed up on the seashore while trying to flee the Syrian conflict, is a moving political statement and a testament to this woman’s compositional skills. The evocative music is reverently somber, and her lyrics are sung with an emotional pathos that is quite moving. She proves herself to be a formidable story-teller, a forgotten talent few modern singers seem to have cultivated.  The slow beating bass line, the muted strings on Koonse’s guitar and the delicately sparse Christoffersen piano accompaniment are perfect complements to Eeg’s sincere plaintive verse. “At least we cry for the victims of war and let those children cry no more.”

There is a contemporary pop feel to Eeg’s “Time to Go,” probably my least favorite song on the album.

The arrangement of Gene De Paul’s “I’ll Remember April” is satiny and sleek. Eeg’s voice modulates with a calm assurance, like the steely nerve of an accomplished tightrope walker who works without a net. Her intonations are clear, unstrained and sinewy. Eeg has an abundance of “chops” but what is thoroughly refreshing is her astute awareness of when and how to use them. There is never even a hint of over the top showmanship that seems to be de rigueur with today’s female divas who revel is showing off their range or raspiness. Instead we find nuance, spacing and silky smooth transitions.

The finale is a sparse upbeat duo version of Porter’s “Anything Goes” featuring Sinne’s lilting voice and her accomplished pianist Christoffersen. The two musically dance with each other and around the melody in a comfortable rendering that accentuates the Porter wit.

If Dreams doesn’t make this Danish wonder woman, Sinne Eeg, into a familiar name in the world of jazz music than people are simply not listening.

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