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VIKTORIA TOLSTOY
My Russian Soul
ACT 9721-2, 51:45
allegro-music.com; actmusic.com

Review by Steve Koenig

Vocalist Viktoria Tolstoy, delightfully referred to in the press release as "The Swede with Russian Ancestors," here delivers a set of songs culled from Russian melodies by Tchaikowsky, Rachmaninoff, as well as traditional Russian songs, delivered cabaret/jazz style. Tolstoy sings so easily, so naturally, and with no detectable accent, but with a soft yet slightly husky timbre to her voice. In tone, but not at all in phrasing save for a tiny tremelo at the end of some long-held notes, the voice makes me think of a Carole Bayer Sager.

The instrumental support varies from jazz combo to neo-Broadway, courtesy of an acoustic string ensemble, and the accordion adds a continental feel to many tracks. The varied lyrics by Anna Alerstedt make for a excellent change from the standard standards and from the bad lyrics so many otherwise-good vocalists choose.

The strongest track, and the one to sample to see if this is for you, is "No News," a haunting lyric with Joakim Milder's sax adding the plaintive flavor one would find in Joni Mitchell's mature albums. Another winner is "You Can Go Home Again," based on Rachmaninoff with an arrangement by Don Sebesky. The one weak track is "Stranger In Paradise," the Borodin-derived song from Kismet, where she and the arrangement could be any jazz-lite singer found on any jazz-lite radio station.



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