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The Italian national newspaper Diario della settimana / Milan, July 20, 2007 / By Giuseppe Montesano

Under the Stars From Norway, the lunar voice of Sinikka Langeland

It was with the maximum of suspicions that the demanding listener inserted the Norwegian singer Sinikka Langeland and her Starflowers (just released by ECM), in the CD player, thinking “here’s the usual freezing and patina-covered pseudo-folk of legends and fairies and artic flowers.” But the listener, to his great and happy surprise, was contradicted. Song after song, the quintet that Langeland put together designed an original and vital sonorous world.

Langeland proceeds with her 13 original compositions like a jazzer: melodic lines snapped-off, broken and circular; sudden and minimum rhythmic chunks where the voice is accompanied by the kantele, a stringed psaltery that sounds like a harp guitar and is interrupted to be integrated with the magnificent trumpet of Arve Henriksen, the saxophones of Trygve Seim, the frequently-bowed contrabass of Anders Jormin and the colorful percussion of Markku Ounaskari.

In Starflowers the integration between the sweet & sour voice – capable of pulling rhythm even from a syllable – and the instruments is perfect. The phrases sung by Langeland are followed by and varied by trumpet, often played by Henriksen like the cornet of the early Don Cherry, but sweeter and almost spoken; or interrupted and deformed by the robust tenor and soprano of Seim: as if the winds evoke the vocal song in their own manner, fusing it to their sonority and rendering it more ample. But above all, that which impresses in the CD of the Finnish composer and singer is the variety of tones in the pieces, the great capacity to make flower in every segment of the songs added melodies, derived-rhythms, serpentine sonorous eruptions and solos apparently distant from the melodic cells and underlying metrics.

The demanding listener can tranquilly confess that he hasn’t heard a singer-composer in years that performed post-jazz so originally and with a team of musicians so totally participating in her mood: perhaps because Langeland and her group are capable of reconnecting in an inventive mode of experience such as those of the best Helen Merrill or of a more-solid Sheila Jordan, and from there, even to evoke (in their own way, among traditional echoes and sonorous spirals loaded with subtle middle-European aromas), the musical system with which Billie Holiday de- and re-composed melodies.

Starflowers appears to be not only a work which is beautiful and rich with future, but also launches a humble question: can one escape the excessive current pop productions of varnished background music, cool and chilly, pseudo-elegant, cunning and dead before it lives, to enter in a post-jazz that elaborates its roots without refuting anything and without fear, and make a music that in its refinement doesn’t forget the downbeat, the fundamental beat, and reinvents it? Starflowers and Langeland respond yes, and it’s a warning to anyone who writes an important disc: don’t neglect originality; it’s an increasingly rare good.

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