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SINIKKA LANGELAND: Starflowers
ECM 1996, 71:16, www.ecmrecords.com, www.sinikka.no
Review by Steve Koenig

Although Starflowers is labeled jazz, it easily fits in with the tradition of female folksingers ranging from the Mallorcan legend Maria Del Mar Bonet to the British June Tabor, especially in Sinikka Langland's vocal timbre. The opening tune, "Autumn Night In The Mountain Woods," played against a 39-string kantele, with its dulcimer-like sound, sounds as if it could just as easily be on Topic as on ECM. What makes it an ECM-jazz disc is the Scandinavian sound of the trumpet/sax/bass/percussion which accompanies most tracks, but this too is partly sonic stereotyping, for their interplay is nearly as fine as the musicians of Pentangle were for Jacqui McShee. Only sometimes are they given arrangements assuming an orchestral surge.

If I may copy one paragraph from the press release, Langeland, of Finnish-Norwegian background, feels, "One of the central issues of working with jazz musicians as opposed to traditional folk musicians is the different feeling for time. The pulsations of the old folk music, the organic, breathing, asymmetric rhythms that we have in the polskas are quite different from modern popular music which is nearly all in 2 or 4. So a lot of adjustment is necessary. Anders Jormin is very aware of this, and Markku Ounaskari is coming closer and closer to the true pulsations of the polskas, remarkably close for a jazz player. But at the same time I want to allow myself to be influenced by his way of hearing and feeling the music."

ECM's booklet includes the sung texts, all of them poems of Norwegian poet Hans Borli, with English translations. They are quite touching in a folky, woodsy way. One could just as easily listen without texts just to Langeland's phrasing, as expressive as the finest lieder singer, and the mood would be enough to satisfy. I am grateful to ECM for bringing a singer this hauntingly beautiful musician into our lives.



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