Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Vocal Jazz CD of the Month - "Iris Bergcrantz: Different Universe"

Vocal Jazz CD of the Month
Iris Bergcrantz: "Different Universe" (Vanguard Music Boulevard)

Rating: ***** (music performance & sound quality)

Featuring: Iris Bergcrantz (vocals), Anna-Lena Laurin (acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Moog synthesizer), Stefan Bellnäs (acoustic bass), Anders Fjeldsted (acoustic bass & electric bass), Johan Kolsut & Victor Lewis (drums), Anders Bergcrantz (trumpet, percussion), Rebecca Bergcrantz (harmony vocals on track 1)

Produced by Iris Bergcrantz, Anders Bergcrantz, Zakarias Lindhammar & Anna-Lena Laurin
Recorded & Mixed by Zakarias Lindhammar
Mastered by Magnus Lindberg
Photos by Nadja Hallström (cover) & Goran James Djordjevic (booklet)
Artwork: XPR Visual
Recorded By Berno Paulsson (track 1)
Recorded By, Mixed By Zakarias Lindhammar

The fearless & flawless debut solo album by Swedish singer/composer Iris Bergcrantz is one of the most exciting new arrivals in the contemporary jazz scene. She sounds really "contemporary," taking chances and providing extremely intriguing tunes. As a composer, Iris paints musical landscapes of intense beauty and sense of urgency, using her voice to forward the lyrics' messages with complete mastery.

Iris doesn't needs any of the same old standards (used by 99% of the "new" vocalists that want to be the "next Diana Krall") to prove her artistry. Instead, she introduces five original tracks that push the jazz boundaries to new limits. The daughter of trumpeter Anders Bergcrantz (whom I met when touring with the CTI All Stars band in 2009) and pianist Anna-Lena Laurin, Iris sometimes sounds like the missing link between Bjork and Annette Peacock, although completely unique.

"I knew I wanted to become a singer when I was 4 years old, singing in my mother's choir," she remembers. "It was neither a strange nor a naive dream. To create music is something very normal in my family, it's just a part of our daily lives."

"Jazz has always ben very close to my heart," she continues. "I think there is an honesty in improvised music, and to me it's very beautiful that a piece can develop in completely different musical spectrums depending on the mood, the energy and simply the moment it is played."

Her strong conception is showcased throughout the album, also available on vinyl LP format, and on which father Anders appears on trumpet & percussion, while mother Anna-Lena goes electric playing mainly Fender Rhodes and Moog synthesizer, as well as the acoustic piano. Anders Fjeldsted plays both acoustic & electric basses, being replaced by Stefan Bellnäs on the opening track, "If You Fail, I'll Always Stay" (with lyrics by Rebecca Bergcrantz), on which special guest drummer Victor Lewis replaces Johan Kolsut.

"The first time I met Victor Lewis was in 2009, when he was playing in my father's band," Iris comments. "One of the many things I love about Victor is the way he views music. He has both a humble and spiritual way of approaching life as an artist. He meditates before each concert in order to clear his head so that he will be more responsive to energies in the room and play directly from his heart. I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to record this album with such wonderful musicians!"

"Aurora's Anthem" is a short instrumnetal interlude that leads to the third track, "Time Was Spent," a 7-minute piece that impresses by its intensity, with Anna-Lena on Rhodes, and Anders performing a superb trumpet solo.

"They Say..." starts like a ballad with Rhodes and acoustic bass but develops as another number of dense magnetism, very well structured. Iris' etheral vocal effects remind me of Flora Purim's on her heyday. Once again, Anders takes the solo spot, but drummer Kolsut almost steals the scene thanks to his vitality, although there's no space to the word "steal" in the collective musical concept created here.

"If you look very closely into any eye, it almost looks like an entire solar system," Iris says about the album title. "There are scientific theories about the patterns in your iris and how they show personality traits, which would mean they really are windows of the soul. What a beautiful idea! Getting to know somebody by looking deeply into her eyes, and thereby experiencing her own different universe..."

The title track is also the magnum opus. The evolutionary process embodied here makes me think of the Bitches Brew era, full of the early Weather Report energy, specially when Anders plugs his Conn Multi-Vider octave pedal, sometimes sounding like a guitar or a soprano sax (sometimes both simultaneously!) Anna-Lena's Rhodes solo follows, full of imagination, and later becomes a dialogue with the trumpet, till Kolsut emerges for an explosive solo. Like on the best fusion works of the early 70s, the piece returns to a reflexive & dreamy mood in the end. It's a joy to listen to music of this caliber. Iris really succeeded in creating her own solar system. This girl is a force of nature.
Vocalist/composer Iris Bergcrantz grew up in a musical family surrounded by jazz music. She started singing in her mother's choir as a four year old, participated at nine on her first CD and received the third prize in an International song contest in Macedonia – broadcasted in TV at the age of 14.

In 2009, she was appointed Årets Stjärnskott (Upcoming star of the Year) in Sweden. She studied in Dublin at New Park Music Centre for one year. At the time being, she has just finished her studies at Skurups Folkhögskola. Iris is also very interested in classical music as well as folk music, and sings in different groups.

Bergcrantz composes, arranges and performs her own as well as others music in different ensembles. In June she will make her debut as a soloist together with Malmö Opera Orchestra when her own piece "Hur kan jag säga," arranged by Anna-Lena Laurin, will be performed at the Nordiskt Forum @ Malmö Arena.

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