by Ian Mann
January 28, 2020
A highly personal and beautifully crafted piece of work. The beautiful performances, allied to the universal theme of motherhood, should ensure that it reaches a wide range of listeners.
(Babel Records BDV19156)
Emilia Martensson – vocals, Luca Boscagin – guitar, Fulvio Sigurta - trumpet, electronics,
Adriano Adewale- percussion, Sam Lasserson – bass
“Loredana” is the third solo album by the Swedish vocalist and songwriter Emiliana Martensson. It follows her earlier releases “And so it goes” (2012) and “Ana” 2014, which were also recorded for Oliver Weindling’s Babel label.
Born in southern Sweden Martensson has been based in the UK for well over a decade, studying first at Colchester Institute under the tutelage of vocalist Trudy Kerr and later at Trinity School of Music in London . She has subsequently become a vital presence on the British jazz scene, both as the leader of her own projects and as a frequent collaborator with the bands of others. In 2016 she was the winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for ‘Best Vocalist’.
Martensson has made welcome appearances as a guest vocalist with saxophonist Adam Waldmann’s acclaimed Kairos 4tet and with pianist and composer Sam Crowe’s group. Other with whom she has performed include trumpeter Rory Simmons’ Fringe Magnetic and Monocled Man groups, violinist/vocalist Alice Zawadzki and fellow singer Sara Colman.
Martensson’s début was an intimate duo set recorded with pianist Barry Green, a musician who is particularly adept at working with vocalists. The album also included tasteful guest appearances by cellist Ben Davis and saxophonist/clarinettist Julian Siegel.
By the time that “Ana” was released Martensson had assembled a full band and the album featured the talents of Green, Lasserson and Adewale, with the Fable String Quartet also featuring on some tracks.
Besides the group that appears on the “Loredana” album Martensson also leads the Elda Trio, a more folk orientated ensemble that also includes the talents of the Brazilian born, London based Adewale and the Slovenian accordionist Janez Dovc. It’s a group that explores the folk music of the original homelands of all three participants and which released its eponymous début album for the Two Rivers record label in 2016.
Martensson’s first two solo releases featured a mix of jazz standards, jazz adaptations of literate pop songs, traditional Swedish folk songs and a smattering of Martensson originals.
“Loredana” places a greater emphasis on original material and represents an intensely personal work. “Ana” was dedicated to Martensson’s Slovenian born grandmother, but “Loredana” was inspired by Martensson’s own mother, Loredana or ‘Lulu’.
The singer describes Loredana as “my whirlwind mother” and her liner notes shed light on the inspirations behind the project;
“‘Loredana’ explores the adversity and intrinsic wilderness of the term, mother’, whilst also celebrating the potentially infinite observations about the ‘mother-child’ relationship’ and how this can fundamentally shape us throughout our lives”.
Prior to the recording Martensson reached out to her audience via Facebook, asking her fan-base a series of four questions, inviting her fan-base to share personal thoughts, memories and observations about their relationships with their own mothers. In her liner notes acknowledges the contributions made by her fans;
“A big thank you to all who contributed their ‘mother stories’. They inspired and moved me. All of your memories and observations have been carefully interwoven into the fabric of this music”.
By her own admission Martensson doesn’t find songwriting to be a particularly easy process, particularly on such an emotionally involving project as this one. The material on “Loredana” also includes songs by Barnaby Keen and Jamie Doe, two of her favourite writers, both of whom also contributed songs to the “Ana” album. There is also a co-write with pianist Tom Cawley, plus further material involving Boscagin and Sigurta in the writing process. Finally there is a typically haunting rendition of a traditional Swedish folk song.
The opening song is “Arm Ourselves (Against Ourselves)”, written by the London based contemporary songwriter Barnaby Keen, leader of the trio Flying Ibex and once part of a band called Brilliant Corners. Paced by Boscagin’s gentle acoustic guitar the arrangement allows plenty of space for the listener to appreciate the purity of Martensson’s voice and the clarity of her enunciation. As the title might suggest the mood is reflective, sombre even, but there’s a melancholic beauty in a performance that also includes tasteful contributions from the other musicians, with Sigurta’s feathery trumpet embellishments representing a particular delight.
Written by Martensson and Boscagin “There (Reversed Lullaby)” draws its lyrical inspiration from the four questions that Martensson asked her audience;
1. If you could describe your mother with one word, what would that word be?
2. What is the most important lesson your mother has thought you?
3. Is there anything you regret in terms of your relationship to your mother?
4. Do you have a specific memory or story about your mother you’d like to share?
There’s a very different feel to the music here with the arrangement centred around Adewale’s fractured, heavily treated drum groove and the ghostly, almost sinister, shimmer of guitar and electronics. The vocals are as pure as ever but the accompanying soundscape is almost dystopian, informed as it is by hip hop and electronica. There’s a similarly bitter-sweet quality to the lyrics, with “always be yourself” seeming to be the main message.
“Weariest River” is the first offering with the pen from Jamie Doe, a contemporary singer-songwriter best known for his performances under the name The Magic Lantern. Doe’s song was clearly written with the theme of the album in mind and the sparse instrumental arrangement emphasises the beauty of Martensson’s wistful, but emotive vocal.
The title track is credited to Martensson and Boscagin and is dedicated to the singer’s “whirlwind mother”, clearly an enormous character whose huge personality Martensson has sometimes found to be overpowering, but ultimately energising. There’s a secondary lyrical theme about the repression of women, inspired by the book “The Women Who Run With The Wolves” by the author Clarissa Pinkola Estes. “We were kept like fallow gardens, waiting for the wind to come” sings Martensson. “Loredana” is that whirlwind.
Credited to Martensson, Boscagin and Sigurta “Aino” is based on an old Finnish folk tale and possesses something of the feel of an ancient folk ballad. It’s a typically sad story, one that tells the tale of a young girl who runs away from home to escape the arranged marriage her family have planned for her. She drowns herself in a lake, but in a feminist twist she turns into a fish, one that eventually slaps her putative suitor about the face. The arrangement is moody, spooky and evocative, with Sigurta’s ghostly muted trumpet particularly effective. “Oh Mother What Have You Done?” sings Martensson, a phrase that is part lament, part accusation.
The twisted, melancholic folk feel continues on the traditional Swedish song “Jag Unnar Dej Anda Allt Gott”, which is sung from the point of view of a broken hearted lover, emotionally devastated but still wishing the best for her former partner. Martensson’s powerful vocal is complemented by an eerie arrangement centred around the spectral sounds of Sigurta’s trumpet and electronics. I’m reminded at times of Martensson’s former collaborator Rory Simmons and his Eyes of a Blue Dog trio featuring Norwegian singer Elisabeth Nygaard.
Martensson’s own “One More For Ana” is a further dedication to her grandmother, forming a direct link to the previous album. It would seem that Ana has passed away in the period between the two albums and this song represents a simple, but heartfelt and beautiful tribute, with guitar, trumpet and percussion all featuring in the economic arrangement.
Jamie Doe’s second contribution is “Shine A Light On”, a song that addresses the problems and inequalities of the modern world; homelessness, poverty, starvation etc. It could all sound a bit ‘preachy’, but Doe undercuts himself by admitting to his naivete. Nevertheless it still represents a call to action, a kind of “Imagine” for these times.
The album closes with “Be Still – Grow”, essentially two songs joined together. The first was written by Martensson with pianist Tom Cawley some time ago, and has a warmly nostalgic feel. It serves as a kind of introduction and features just the sounds of Martensson’s voice and Lasserson’s double bass. The second part of the segue was written by Martensson more recently and addresses the subject of hope for future generations. Martensson describes the sequence as saying goodbye to the old generation while pondering on the future of the next.
Martensson’s website describes herself as both a jazz singer and a folk singer, and this album is likely to appeal to fans of both genres, fitting neatly into either as well as offering much more besides, particularly through the imaginative use of electronics in some of the arrangements.
It’s a highly personal and beautifully crafted piece of work. The album is produced by Chris Hyson of the duo Snowpoet, who sprinkles a little aural stardust on the proceedings, assisted by the stellar engineering team of Alex Bonney and Peter Beckmann.
Martensson sings beautifully throughout, pure, clear, emotive and possessed of flawless diction. In her capacity as a singer and lyric writer it’s hard to believe that English is officially her ‘second language’.
Her band play superbly throughout, albeit in a very understated way. The arrangements are deliberately sparse, designed to frame the beauty of Martensson’s voice, but they are immaculately crafted and beautifully and sympathetically played, helping to enhance the atmosphere of every piece.
“Loredana” is a worthy follow up to “Ana” and the beautiful performances, allied to the universal theme of motherhood, should ensure that it reaches a wide range of listeners, from both the jazz and folk communities. But ultimately this intensely personal musical is very much Martensson’s own, a musician who seems impervious to genres.
Emilia Martensson will be touring “Loredana” in the UK & Europe during 2020. She writes;
I am excited to finally going on the road together with Adriano Adewale on percussion, Luca Boscagin on Guitar, Fulvio Sigurta on Trumpet and Sam Lasserson on Bass to play this new music and continue the conversation about one of the relationships that perhaps shape us as people the most.
I hope to see you at one of our upcoming tour dates. (See dates below).
Emilia Mårtensson & Barry Green Quartet at 606 Jazz Club, Chelsea, London.
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
6th February-Seven Arts Centre Leeds, UK
7th February-Sheffield Jazz, UK
8th February-The Vortex, London, UK
10th February-Birmingham Symphony Hall, UK
25th February-Watermill Jazz, Dorking,UK
3rd March- Halmstad Stads Bibliotek, Sweden
4th March-Varberg Teater, Sweden
5th March-Löfdalens Folkhögskola, Sweden
6th March-Hylte folkbibliotek, Sweden
7th March-Parken Trelleborg, Sweden
13th March-Trieste Hotel, Verona,Italy
17th March-Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia
blog comments powered by Disqus
Further information at http://www.emiliamartensson.com