13 May 2009

Review: Nils Lindberg and Margareta Bengtson - As We Are

As We Are (2008, Prophone) starts with a 19th Century meditation on death ("Remember," a setting a poem by Christina Rosetti) then moves on through the blues, folk tunes from Finland and Sweden, bossa nova, Hoagy Carmichael and Ellingtonian vocalese before arriving at Shakespeare. Talk about your strange meadowlarks.

There's something otherworldly about the whole enterprise, as if Nils Lindberg (composer, arranger and pianist) were a Martian who spent a his childhood listening to radio waves from the next planet over, picking up jazz and classical and all those popular tunes broadcast before 1960 and then deciding to have a go at it himself. While those signals might have left this world in discreet streams, what Lindberg sends back to earth is all mixed together, as if the boundaries between genres don't matter. As it turns out, Lindberg is from Sweden, where, thankfully, they don't. The result is as crisp and classic as a restored black & white movie and as new as next Tuesday.

Chief among Lindberg's co-conspirators on this project is singer Margareta Bengtson, who appears on 11 of the 13 tracks. Bengtson's Nordic cool may be a million miles from Ella Fitzgerald in style but they both share a gift for putting the across the lyric with great feeling, while avoiding the "watch me, watch me" embellishment that many singers use to prove that they're singing jazz, as if you didn't know. But Bengtson is also no slouch when it's time to bust out the scat chops.

What Lindberg and Bengston achieve on As We Are is a remarkable melding of jazz song and art song that I suspect would have pleased a chamber jazz proponent like Billy Strayhorn no end. Only the tune "Santa Barbara" comes off a little cheesy, but it's a pleasant cheese and entirely in keeping with the city that inspired it (see/hear for your own self).

  • Note on purchasing - Much as I commend this CD to your listening ears, it isn't sold on Amazon, CD Baby or any of the usual suspects. The Prophone link above will eventually get you to a purchase link, but it's a long and winding road that leads nowhere. Several sketchy bit torent avenues turn up on searches but those always make me feel dirty. I'll try to update this post if I find a solution.

Further linkage

Nils Lindberg (official site | wikipedia) is as celebrated in Sweden for his work in jazz settings as he is for his classical compositions, film and TV scores, as well as settings of Swedish folk music.

Margareta Bengtson's myspace page
- includes the opening track "Remember" as well as a sprightly version of Annie Ross's "Twisted."


Happy In Bag said...

Thanks, as always, for the lead.

Lee said...

My pleasure, Bag. Let me know if you track it down.