Tag Archives: smooth jazz

orchestra, opera, modern anonymity

15 Jun

The whole idea of Late Night Tales is to get an artist/ band and to present new arrangements of songs/compositions that were crucial to one’s development. Let’s say, if I had to make an example, if Kurt Cobain had been asked to create his version of Late Night Tales, he would have picked the Beatles, Sex Pistols, the Pixies. If Trent Reznor was asked to create his, he’d pick David Bowie, Kiss, Gary Numan, Coil, perhaps Depeche Mode. And so on, and so on. Various artists have created their own version of Late Night Tales. Some of them have little in common – Jamiroquai, the Flaming Lips, Belle & Sebastian, Fatboy Slim, Air and many many more contributed to the idea. The sixteenth album of the cycle is made by the Cinematic Orchestra. This is their choice of music which influenced them so much they decided to create their own. And? Well, for sure it’s not a disappointment.

The intro (Flying Lotus) brings a mystical, Far East Asian tune – that totally takes you with it. Meditational music. And easily turns into Nick Drake’s Three Hours – a song that could be easily part of one of the albums released by Nonesuch.

And the further you go, the more surprising it gets. Eddie Gale’s song for example starts as if it was a usual jazz standard, she starts to sing – it becomes suddenly lyrical – just to burst out with a chorus of voices which clearly take inspiration from the 1960’s, Broadway musicals and even gospel. But it’s just a mystification. The story flows on and becomes Terry Callier’s You’re Goin’ Miss Your Candyman – a hypnotical tune with a vocal which is partly blues, partly a hippie-like, transe-chant of the 1960’s (back again).

I don’t want to describe this album song by song. It’s really hard to do so. An amazing piece of art it is, and you cannot really consider it an album full of different songs by various artists. It’s more like a composition that includes nineteen tracks, a symphony that is built on different voices and different instruments, a mass. When you listen to it, it’s really hard to think of it as a compilation of separate songs. It’s more like a modern opera.

I didn’t find it tiring, I didn’t find it boring. I found it absolutely amazing, full of inspirations and great consequence and consistency, although the presented artists are very varied. The only thing that diminishes my enthusiasm a little is that… there is not enough Cinematic Orchestra in it. Maybe I’m wrong but I’d expect more of nu-jazz tracks and melodies. I got an album which is a mix of different songs, rather modern, remixed, a little bit (but only a little) relying on electro and synthpop – a brilliant piece but… if it had a different name written on it, I wouldn’t have guessed it’s an album by the Cinematic Orchestra. Sadly.

I don’t want to complain. It’s a great album. It’s well structured, it’s enchanting with rhythm and melodies, it’s soft and passionate at the same time – the most ideal late night you can imagine – but something is missing. And I feel like it doesn’t have enough of the influence of the artist that is supposed to play the key role in it. Frankly, I do not agree with accusations that it’s boring and that some of the songs don’t fit the whole. I didn’t get that feeling at all. It flows smoothly, from one song to the other, it’s intense and lyrical at the same time. It’s a perfectly organized form – so well organized that you do not think of separate tracks. But what it is missing is the Cinematic Orchestra in itself. I mean… where did the guys go?

I wouldn’t say that this album is a mistake. I am absolutely under the spell of it. I just don’t know what to think when it comes to authorship. Perhaps, one could look at it this way – it’s the voice of the modern world. Cumulated into one album. And it’s truly beautiful. But it puts you in a mood in which the first thing you do after listening to it is grabbing the first CD by the Cinematic Orchestra that is near you and just… damn, hear the guys play…


Elle or Ella

27 May

OMG, I AM getting old. Sure, that little Jewish girl from Canada which happens to have a very Polish-sounding family name has got a great voice. Sure, I am totally stunned by her vocal abilities and I think she is really good especially when it comes to smooth jazz. But… I’m scared to death by the possibility of the fact that a 16-year-old with a gorgeous voice means money and show business and when I’m thinking of Nikki Yanofsky being another plastic doll for the huge record companies and all the corporations profiting from her talent, I’m simply shitting my pants.

In the very beginning when I was listening to her newest album which is simply called Nikki, I thought that this is yet another revelation in the music biz. The girl’s got talent, an amazing voice, she deals easily with most sophisticated melodies and – this is gonna be big, guys! – she is literally BORN FOR SCAT! Not many artists own such a natural ability of scatting, many most famous jazz singers avoided scatting throughout their whole career. It’s a difficult art and it’s very, very risky. Yanofsky does it with such ease that you get goose-bumps, listening for instance to You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini), which is definitely one of the best songs of the album not only in terms of music itself but also simply because it shows the abilities of the singer – and it’s not a coincidence, it’s the same song that was once sung by glorious Ella. And, man… Yanofsky is though! She can scat, she can sing a song stylized for a French chanson (Bienvenue dans ma vie), she can be lyrical turning even a little bit soul, she can even sing in a way that raises thoughts on the influence of country music and/or Norah Jones, and she can also sing pretty rough with a very strong, mature voice. Outstanding!

The problem is that listening to the album I had a feeling that Yanofsky doesn’t know what kind of music she really wants to play. Of course most of these songs are basically ready-made hits. Kind of that you hear in the radio every damn morning until you start to hate the song and the vocalist as well. And, maybe I’m too much obsessed about her age but I had a feeling that someone extremely stupid, someone who sits on the top of this whole food chain called the music biz, told her: “Nikki, we pick this, and this, and that, cause No. 1 will be admired by the critics, No. 2 will be admired by the public, No. 3 will be played in the radio and No. 4 will sell and earn us money”. Ok, that’s obviously going pretty far with my imagination. The point is that the album is not consequent. I spent a lovely evening listening to Nikki and the record is totally sweet, amusing, the music is perfectly performed. Still – I’m missing something. A concept maybe? I feel like it’s some kind of an album you could title The Best of Jazz Radio – the only difference is that you’ve got one, single vocalist here. And this is not an advantage of Nikki.

The changes in styles and mood are also not experimental. It’s not performed in a way to keep the listener avid to get some more. It’s not supposed to surprise you or keep the tension. It’s just falling apart. I felt a bit cheated and a bit disappointed – here I have a great album by a very promising, young artist with amazing vocal abilities and I admit each of the songs is great (except I Believe which was used during the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver – corny, dull, unimaginative, tasteless pop that reminds me of Celine Dion and Celine Dion only). And then – I just don’t know what to say after listening to the whole of it cause fourteen (sorry, thirteen) great songs don’t make my day. They just don’t. Period. Maybe I’m spoiled, maybe I’m a nerd, whatever, say what you want, but this album does not win my heart just because it includes talent and well-written songs. Where’s the concept? Where’s consequence? Where is the art? Yes, you’re right, I said it – where’s art? Creating an album does not imply you just need to record thirteen damn hits, does it? Why we don’t call Summer Hits Vol. 90210 real albums? Cause they’re not albums, for Christ’s sake!

What I think, all in all. This girl has got a bright future in front of her. But it’s very easy to spoil it right now. If she slips once, she will end up as a pop star, Ms. Miley Cyrus No. 2. And this would do huge damage to her talent and her abilities. All we can do is wait and hope that she is determined enough, mature enough and though enough to resist the temptation of becoming a pop star. If she does, then… well, guys, we might have the new Ella Fitzgerald here…