Poetry and jazz have a long and strained history dating back to at least the 1950s: although the two seem naturally compatible, in practice they often seem to barely coexist -- peacefully to be sure, but even then somewhat unnaturally. While the instant project led by pianist Moritz Eggert is too artistically diverse to be pinpointed musically, it does share the distinction of combining poetic lines with original melodies peppered with improvisational flights, often by iconoclastic figures such as Steven Bernstein and Gerry Hemingway. The project is hugely successful, for several reasons. First, the haunting, imposing lyrics, which are printed in the CD leaflet, are sung clearly and poignantly by Celine Rudolph so that every word can be understood by the listener the first time, yet she still manages to stretch like taffy and infuse virtually every note with urgency. You can hear the obvious influence of Rickie Lee Jones and others from a multitude of genres as well: Rudolph's is an individual voice, an impressive mix of folk, jazz, modern classical, and pop. Secondly, leader Eggert hits his stride compositionally, his gorgeous melodies the norm. A final reason for the album's success is the resilient timbre of Bernstein, whose trumpet leaves a lasting impression with its rubbery tentacles that wrap around Rudolph's often delicate pronouncements. And, the words -- the words. If you've never read Anne Sexton before (and most of the poems are hers), and even if you have, read them while they are sung. You won't be able to forget them; they will likely leave you with a chill, something the music accentuates. For pure emotion, musical proficiency, and musical surprises, this one stands at the top, a wondrous feat that simply peels away with each listening, not unlike a novel by John Fowles or, to the point, a poem by Anne Sexton or William Shakespeare.
Share this page