I Can Let Go Now
A Moment of Now
Against All Odds
Hand in My Pocket
Taking It All Too Hard
Lessons in Love
Shadow and Light
A Concentrate on You
Scent of Snow
Send One Your Love
Viktoria Tolstoy – Vocals
Jacob Karlzon – Steinway grand piano, pump organ, celesta, Fender Rhodes
Jocke Bergstrom – Vocals (track 13)
Viktoria Tolstoy is Swedish but is also the great,
great granddaughter of the renowned Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy.
On this album she sings material drawn from the worlds of pop music,
jazz and even classical music. She is accompanied by Jacob Karlzon
who also composed the music for one of the songs, Scent of Snow.
First time around, I wasn’t altogether convinced by the choice of songs on the album. Tolstoy and Karlzon have been a team for almost fifteen years and
selected these particular tunes, some because they were familiar and appealing, others because they were new and represented a fresh challenge. On first
hearing, I felt that some, at least, were unsatisfactory especially when contrasted with how Viktoria performs Cole Porter’s I Concentrate on You,
the one traditional standard to be found here. It’s a convincing rendition, showing what she can do when lyrics and music are of real quality.
Having said that, I found many of the songs grew on me. Viktoria herself has a distinctive voice, jazz-influenced but with more than a touch of soul. She
repays repeated listening. She can make the move from a gentle whisper to a more dramatic full-throated sound and she always sings with clarity. Jacob
Karlzen’s style ranges from pensive, sensitive piano to a more punchy accompaniment, where required. I liked his playing particularly on his own
composition Scent of Snow, where tune and words make for a happy combination.
What, then, are the highlights? Deep River has a
strong tune, well sung by Tolstoy, with Karlzon contributing a meditative
solo passage on what is a beautiful theme. Red Rain, a Peter
Gabriel original, features good interpretive work by Viktoria and,
at times, forceful support by Karlzen. A Moment of Now is
an affecting ballad with a sublime Pat Metheny tune and strong lyrics
by Anna Alerstedt, to which Viktoria and Jacob do full justice. Against
All Odds is a familiar Phil Collins number, again well performed.
Hand in My Pocket offers a more upbeat piece and receives
a lively showing from both artistes. Lessons in Love is another
lovely melody and is rewarded by strong performances.Scent of
Snow, already mentioned, is a quirky piece. Karlzon, improvising
well, at times put me in mind of the folk tradition. Send One
Your Love is a sentimental Stevie Wonder composition where Jocke
Bergstrom shares the vocal honours with Tolstoy. The tracks mentioned
are those that carried most appeal for me. Others I judge less successful,
to varying degrees.
Viktoria has kept good company in the wider jazz world, for
instance, McCoy Tyner, Ray Brown and Toots Thielemans. On the strength
of this disc, she probably deserves her status as one of Sweden’s
most accessible jazz singers.