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Kontomanou, Elisabeth (vocals) - Secret Of The Wind

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Elisabeth Kontomanou, vocals
Geri Allen, piano

Great music is indeed a triumph of the spirit. It houses intangible, often hard to explicate, components that are nonetheless readily recognizable-elevated by the process of being shared. In many ways it can be a signification of what we don't know (or perhaps only have an inkling of) reminding us of what we do know, or, at the very least, intuit.

Intuition had quite a bit to do with the genesis of the music on this album. Despite their obvious rapport and the fact that both were once based in the creative hotbed of New York City for concurrently long periods of their respective careers, singer Elisabeth Kontomanou and pianist Geri Allen were not old friends when they met in Normandy, France to lay down these tracks. Kontomanou is based in Stockholm, Sweden now, while Allen is still in the states, a centerpiece of the University of Michigan's jazz faculty. The two had only met once before: for a duet tribute to Billie Holiday in the city of Montreal in March 2011, at the behest of producer Alain Bédard at the annual Jazz en Rafale festival. "The set was going so well that by the time it was over I was feeling that we should have other opportunities to play," Kontomanou explains. "When I came back to Europe, I wrote my producer about doing another duo recording. [Her third, after pairings with fellow France natives Jean-Michel Pilc and Laurence Courthaliac.] Geri and I went into the studio in July."

The sacred nature of much of the repertoire here is the clearest indicator of what sparked the new collaborators' connection. It's safe to say that it facilitated their affinity's depth as well as its ease. Allen has long been considered the greatest jazz pianist to emerge since the 1980s, and even though until fairly recently her work seemed entirely focused on furthering the legacy of pianistic innovation advanced by Herbies Hancock and Nichols, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor, her runs have always retained the gospelized fervor of the blues. For Kontomanou, the pianist's prodigious capabilities fulfilled a dream. The vocalist first emigrated to America in the '90s to get closer to the sources of jazz's rich African-American history, but over the course of several albums, a wide variety of sideperson credits and her share of faith-testing hard times, she'd rarely veered into the realm of spiritual music. "I never had a home church or even sang in churches in America," says Kontomanou. ("I'm not even sure my style is made for singing groups," she adds, a bit jokingly.) "But when I met Geri, we started exchanging ideas about God naturally. Upon returning home from Montreal I thought that if we had those interests in common we could pick some black spirituals, and so it started. Of course, I was excited. To finally find a pianist who has the culture of the black American church?!?"

The program here is remarkable in more ways than one, however. The duo has cast the net far afield for appropriate pieces, not only mixing the traditional with the fairly new, but also undertaking full-scale reimaginations of iconic R&B-driven themes like the opener, Marvin Gaye's "God Is Love", and Curtis Mayfield's time-honored classic "People Get Ready". (Some will remember arranger Gary McFarland's "Sack Full Of Dreams" as a vehicle for Donny Hathaway, another soulfully sophisticated powerhouse.) Fittingly, the album's hymns reveal some of the most stately singing of Kontomanou's career; at times invention tempts her to wade far into music's choppier waters only to have Allen's accompaniment, a combination of churning ostinatos and deceptively sparkling chordal runs, safely row her back to shore. In some places, the tenor of the program speaks to uplift (Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free"), in others, hope ("If I Ruled The World"), while still others are a reminder of the emotions fundamental to expressions of faith ("Nature Boy", "L.O.V.E.").

Kontomanou's comfort with varied types of expression belies the fact that she is essentially a self-taught musician. Based on her compatibility with Allen and the strength of the album's two self-composed originals ("Everybody Was Born Free" and the title track "Secrets Of The Wind"), at first listen I wondered about her compositional method. Does she compose at the piano? "I don't play any instrument," she said, which is a bit astonishing given that she's a mother of four who has raised three fine instrumentalists (they've accompanied her on earlier projects). "Songs simply come to me and I grab them as they're passing by," she explains matter-of-factly. "I don't necessarily understand it, either, but I have a theory: I really believe that melodies already exist and are already formed somewhere in space. They're around us just waiting to find someone to bring them to life." Perhaps the most telling thing about Kontomanou's notion is that, put another way, it is precisely the sentiment of the title track, the mysterious whisper in the question, "Do you know the secret of the wind?"; the bridge that modulates with the words, "everybody's searchin'."

Together, Kontomanou and Allen have made an album that allows the listener access to quite a few of those secrets.

Artikelnummer OTN015
Streckkod 3760195730157
Utgivningsdatum 2012-01-01
Kategori Jazz
Skivbolag Outnote
Enhet CD
Antal enheter 1
Artister Kontomanou, Elisabeth (vocals)
Disk: 1
1 God Is Love
2 If I Ruled The World
3 Everybody Was Born Free
4 I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
5 Secret Of The Wind
6 L.O.V.E
7 Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
8 Trouble Of The World
9 Sack Full Of Dreams
10 Nature Boy
11 People Get Ready
12 Were You There
13 A Quiet Place
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