Laila Dalseth

One of a Kind

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For a relatively small country (population just under 4.5 million), Norway has turned out some outstanding jazz personages, among them two jazz singers of the highest caliber, Karen Krog and the subject of this set, the inestimable Laila Dalseth. The former is probably better known here because of her recordings with Arche Shepp and John Surman. But Dalseth has earned several times over the same level of recognition and credit. This 2-CD set recapitulates her work over a period of almost 25 years. During that time, she has recorded with some of the better European musicians, such as pianist Bengt Hallberg, Per Husby, Philip Catherine, and longtime collaborator Totti Bergh. She also has recorded with significant American jazzers, including Al Cohn, Bucky Pizzarelli, Milt Hinton, and Dave Frishberg. Representative cuts from these sessions and more are on this compilation. Like the great singers, both jazz and pop, she has an innate feel for every syllable she sings. There's no sloppiness, no slurring of words, no resting on the job. The phrasing, the diction, the significant pause, the intelligent use of her sidemen, it's all here. Listen as she holds the final note of "But Beautiful" much longer than usually heard, confirming all that she has done with this tune up to that point. And she can swing, as she demonstrates backed with a big band on "There Will Never Be Another You." Here she is clearly tuned into Terje Venaas' bass, which she uses as a rhythmic guidepost. "Stairway to the Stars," with just Irish guitarist Louis Stewart helping her, is a virtuoso performance. Three cuts present from her 1986 album with Al Cohn, "You've Changed," "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," and "Little Man You've Had a Busy Day," are among the best the compilation has to offer. By the time 1999 arrives, her voice continues to be strong and vibrant as she amply demonstrates with a small group on an up-tempo "Easy to Love," with an excellent solo by Jon Gordon. For devotees of vocal jazz, this set is an absolute must.

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