Solveig Slettahjell: soul of Scandinavia

Interpreting a song by Swedish pop singer Eva Dahlgren from the 1990s largely unknown to Anglophone audiences 'Guldlock' from the big selling Swedish album of the era En blekt blondins hjärta (translated as 'Heart of a bleached blonde') is a point …

Published: 23 Jan 2023. Updated: 10 days.

Interpreting a song by Swedish pop singer Eva Dahlgren from the 1990s largely unknown to Anglophone audiences 'Guldlock' from the big selling Swedish album of the era En blekt blondins hjärta (translated as 'Heart of a bleached blonde') is a point of entry that works whether you know the song or typically tend not to immerse yourself in Scandinavian pop songs. Slettahjell with the Slow Motion Orchestra 20 years ago was able to sing a jazz standard as convincingly as anyone then or now and certainly the singer ranks with the best European jazz singers of her generation (she is in her early-fifties) whether on her own projects or in collaboration with such titans of European jazz piano as fellow Norwegian Tord Gustavsen.

Slettahjell was last on our radar during Lockdown with Come in from the Rain an album that had a very different vintage flavour to it, something the singer does very well, chiming nicely in a Madeleine Peyroux type style. On that Great American Songbook-dominated record she was with pianist Andreas Ulvo, bassist Trygve Waldemar Fiske and drummer Pål Hausken and the songs they interpreted included the Loewe/Lerner standard 'On The Street Where You Live' and Irving Berlin's 'How Deep Is The Ocean.'

On 'Guldlock' ('Gold Lock') the lyrics from the Swedish depending on your interpretation deal with a protagonist looking for gold, not the flashy glittering type, or even literally gold at all - more about non-judgemental freedom, a freeing of the mind to transport oneself into another mutually supportive and loving community.

The arrangement of Slettahjell's version is different to Dahlgren's while retaining a deeply melancholic mood. So no solo soprano saxophone line (on the Dahlgren version it was saxist Jonas Knutsson) and a choice in this new version of a very still against offbeats sound to begin then a splash of cymbal and a dialogue with piano. The full album is out via the Jazzland label on 17 February. And while the project will be of most interest to listeners from the Nordic countries the language barrier does not take away from the beauty of what we have heard so far by any means. The wider album includes music by Grieg, Lars Lillo-Stenberg and Allan Edwall plus songs by Slettahjell and her pianist Andreas Ulvo - excellent on last year's Mathias Eick album When We Leave. Slettahjell is gigging soon in Norway with Ulvo plus long standing bandmates Fiske and Hausken. Solveig Slettahjell, photo: publicity shot

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David Ake, Green Thumb, Posi-Tone ***

Label regular pianist David Ake, a professor and chair at the department of musicology of the Frost School of Music, University of Miami, is here with another Posi-Tone regular Boris Kozlov and the brilliant avant tenorist Tony Malaby plus label …

Published: 22 Jan 2023. Updated: 11 days.

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Label regular pianist David Ake, a professor and chair at the department of musicology of the Frost School of Music, University of Miami, is here with another Posi-Tone regular Boris Kozlov and the brilliant avant tenorist Tony Malaby plus label regular drummer Rudy Royson (qv Art Hirahara pièce de résistance, Balance Point). While opener 'Good Afternoon' and the album overall are fairly middle of the road stylistically the title track next is more open and free-ish. 'John Prine' has a pretty melody but the rendition meanders a bit too much. 'Stu's News' has a bustling opening flourish from Royston and then a boisterous line from Malaby. Ake isn't a massively demonstrative soloist but there's granular detail to dig into and Kozlov finds this by amplifying the scrabbling detours that the pianist often embarks on. The bassist uses an arco style at the beginning of the tender 'Walker Evans' and 'Slingshot' has a similar pastel quality. The most impressive track of the album 'Street Food' even if it stylistically is an outlier contains a grand statement from Malaby and he lends a breathy old fashioned feeling to the agreeably laidback 'But Beautiful' that might win over even the most curmudgeonly of us. Out on 17 March