Much like the days of the major label deal, the days of the more traditional jazz critic are at best numbered. Working as a jazz advocate is at times the equivalent of playing musical prospector. Having spent the better part of most days sifting through the sand and silt of what can be more aptly described as hopes and dreams that are nothing more than wishful thinking, coming across a talent the likes of Anna Laszlo is not only an epic find but makes all previously wasted time well worth the effort.
This Hungarian vocalist/lyricist is captivating. An incredibly organic yet adventurous presentation that is only accentuated by her pristine vocals and incredibly tender delivery. Artistic frames of reference are inherently unfair if not dangerous for all concerned. Laszlo is finding her vocal sweet spot somewhere between a more contemporary Joni Mitchel and a more accessible ECM approach. Laszlo who is surrounding by a wonderfully eclectic group of musicians finds a unique harmonic niche spot somewhere between the more minimalistic approach to improvised music coming out of eastern Europe and the more familiar form and functionality associated with the western form known as jazz. There is some potential cross-over material here that would be a welcome shot in the arm to some of the more commercial clay pigeons being tossed out to the public on a regular basis.
Opening with "Awakening" there is dreamy ambient feel with perhaps a subtle samba nuance as Laszlo caresses each note. Anna Laszlo's voice is as cool and refreshing as a summer rain without a hint of pretentiousness. From the acoustic guitar to the bowed double bass there is an unmistakable organic spin that seems designed to carry the listen along in it's lyrically developing wake. "Cafe" develops a unique sonic pulse as the tune slowly develops as Laszlo makes the effortless transition from traditional vocalist to unconventional story teller. "Falling In" opens with the a lyrical driven trumpet solo of Bastian Stein. Crisp, clean with a subtle smokey finish finds Laszlo creating vivid lyrical images as she utilizes every note not to mention every instrument to full effect in highlighting her sonic canvass.
Knowing who you are as an artist is critical no matter what genre you work in or what country you work from. Billed as a collection of original jazz ballads, this is who Anna Laszlo is as an artist with my fervent hope that she stays the course. Laszlo is an intoxicating breath of fresh air in an industry mired in sound-alikes and at times void of anything smacking of sincere musical integrity.
5 Huge Stars.
Tracks: Awakening; Nameless Love; Cafe; Denial; Back In A Dream; The Autumn Wind Blows From Above; Falling In; Clovis; The Dove; Who; Awakening ( trio version).
Personnel: Anna Laszlo: vocals; Alegre Correa: guitar, vocals & percussion; Larry Lofquist: piano; Bastian Stein: trumpet, flugelhorn; Peter Herbert: double bass; Mario Gonzi: drums.
Special Guests: Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitars on "Who."
Alune Wade: vocals on "Who."
Shayan Fathi: percussion: on "Awakening" - trio version.