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City of Dizzy

SOPHIE PRODUCTIONS (no number) [29:16]



Sophie Dunér (vocals): Jeremy Harman (cello)

Weird Nightmare (C. Mingus)

Gossip (S. Dunér)

My Eternal Flame (S. Dunér)

Reharmonized Boyfriend (S. Dunér)

Addicted To Love (S. Dunér)

Purple Bossa (S. Dunér)

Rattle Snake (S. Dunér)

The Express Train (S. Dunér)

Blue In Green (M. Davis)

Sophie Dunér has enjoyed a fruitful series of duo collaborations in recent years. There was a creative meeting with guitarist Gene Pritsker on her album Songs Eclectic and here is her work with cellist Jeremy Harman. The cellist is a soloist in his own right but meshes with Dunér’s vocals to form a consistently intriguing sonority, whether playing pizzicato or arco and bringing his own sensibility to each of the nine tracks, seven of which are Dunér originals.

Dunér is a high-octane performer who thrives on visceral contrasts, rhythmic changes, and simmering intensity. She is a stylistic omnivore, taking elements from musical arenas that interest her but fashioning them to her own idiosyncrasies and sensibility. Her startling vocalese on Gossip with multi-tracking involves some virile playing from the cellist too; a track that put me in mind of a kind of weirded-up Anita O’Day. This is followed by a fine blues called My Eternal Flame where Harman’s cello takes on a distinctly woody tone with inbuilt rhythmic divisions in his solo, though her more conversational singing style can be savoured in Reharmonized Boyfriend, a song title as quirky as the vocalese that flecks in and out of it.

Her propensity for pushing her voice high is evident on a couple of tracks in particular. Try Addicted To Love which is an obvious case in point, one of her originals, and notable for the way she roughens her tone to generate intensity and drama, and the way her vocal curlicues weave over a cello drone, and of course in the way she is wholly unafraid of some down to earth wailing. Dunér is certainly not for everyone when she is on this kind of form, but then that’s the point. If you want her in microcosm try Purple Bossa, which you might think a Latin-tinged and languid number from its title but which is, in fact, a constant play of colour, rhythm and texture – wide variety and fearless independence of spirit.

Overdubbing allows percussive and bass elements to be added to the tracks, as on Rattle Snake, where Harman really comes into his own as an inventive improviser on a track with creative lyrics. Sometimes her vocalism can wear one down and on the Rock-influenced The Express Train I certainly felt that its repetitiveness had this effect on me. The disc is bookended by a piece by Mingus called Weird Nightmare, imaginatively transfigured by the duo, and by Miles Davis’ modal masterpiece Blue in Green which is allusively and creatively approached in this fine reading.

The Dunér-Harman duo is a creative one and their album is full of memorable elements.

Jonathan Woolf

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