Live Maria Roggen - Vocals
Erlend Skomsvoll - Grand Piano, Hammond B3
Sondre Meisfjord - Bass
Håkon Mjåset Johansen - Drums
The Norwegian Radio Orchestra (KORK):
Erlend Skomsvoll - Conductor
Kolbjørm Holthe - Concertmaster, violin solos (tracks 3, 10)
Anne Karine Hauge - Flute solo (track 6)
Embrik Snerte - Contraforte solo (track 9)
Petter Winroth - Trombone solo (track 9)
Jan Erik Vold - Poetry reading (track 7)
Nowegian Radio Orchestra - Chorus (track 3)
To jazz fans outside of Norway, neither Come Shine nor KORK
may mean a great deal. Once they have listened to and enjoyed
this album, I suspect that not only will that omission have been
rectified but they will have developed an appetite for more. Come
Shine are a Norwegian jazz group who made their concert debut
in 1999. Composed of a singer (the exceptional Live Maria Roggen)
and a pianist, bass and drums, they specialised in unorthodox
arrangements of jazz and other standards. They disbanded in 2004
after a relatively brief but highly successful recording career,
having released three best selling jazz albums during a period
of only four years. One of those was with their partners on this
album, The Norwegian Radio Orchestra, known to Norwegians as “KORK”.
Come Shine re-formed in 2012, seemingly even more imaginative
and open to experiment. They released a further disc Red And
Gold in 2014. The Norwegian Radio Orchestra has a high profile
in its native country. Classically trained, the versatility of
the musicians is such that they can creatively engage with any
genre. Come Shine pianist and Hammond B3 organist, Erlend Skomsvoll,
provides arrangements for Come Shine as well as for the orchestra
on this occasion.
One of the great soul classics [Sittin' On The] Dock
Of The Bay, forever associated with Otis Redding, is given
a mesmerising treatment. Roggen almost whispers the lyrics yet
still manages to inject sensuality into her singing. Hers is a
distinctive sound, oblique in the way that, say, Norma Winstone
can be. The backing is highly effective and there is an exquisite
violin solo from Concertmaster Kolbjørn Holthe. Willow Weep
For Me is notable for a variety of reasons, whether for the
way, for instance, Come Shine and the orchestra combine to offer
a truly inventive interpretation of this well-loved standard,
or for Roggen's haunting take on the melody. There's a passage
of scat worthy of Diana Torto (and she is one of the best when
it comes to using the voice as an instrument). Another standout
is Monk's Well You Needn't, where the orchestra rocks
along like a Charles Mingus band, driven by Johansen on drums.
The arrangement is idiosyncratic (well, it is a Monk tune!) and
Roggen is once more superb. Another successful part of the mix
are the solos by (unusually) the contraforte and also the trombone.
I'll Be Seeing You had the potesntial to be at least
as good as the tracks I've mentioned above. Live Maria Roggen
delivers the lyrics of this familiar standard from the late 1930s
beautifully, and bassist Sondre Meisfjord plays with passion.
For me, what took the edge off it a little was the reading in
Norwegian, of one of his poems, by Jan Erik Vold, over the music.
I'm sure it was sensitively done but it tended to detract from
Elsewhere, the brief opener Norwegian Caravan segues
into Caravan proper, so to speak. If there was any question
of whether KORK could do justice to a jazz arrangement, such doubts
are dispelled here. The clarity and jazz intonation of Roggen
are obvious and there is some formidable piano from Erlend Skomsvoll.
On The Man Comes Around, a Johnny Cash number of all
things, Live Maria recites rather than sings but even pulls that
off with flair. The orchestral accompaniment is vigorous, even
exciting. The overall effect is dramatic and reminds us of why
jazz has been described as 'the sound of surprise'. Ode To
The Silent Birds is a short reverie with flute solo and minimal
orchestral support. Something To Live For was the first
Billy Strayhorn composition to be recorded by Duke Ellington.
Roggen's voice brings out the beauty of the melody and the poignancy
of the lyrics. Once more, there is a classy contribution on bass
from Meisfjord. The final track, Danny's Dream, is from
the pen of the Swedish baritone saxophonist, Lars Gullin, with
lyrics by Lars Sõderberg. Maybe it is more conventional than some
of Roggen's earlier vocal offerings but it still delights. Skomsvoll
on piano and Holthe on violin, in particular, bring added lyricism
to the proceedings.
This album proves to be tremendous fun as well as deeply moving
at times. The orchestra is full of energy and musicianship while
Come Shine reveal the musical benefits of long association. Above
all, there is the adventurous vocal talent that is Live Maria
Roggen. Music like this both stimulates and satisfies.