Rebekka Bakken / Wolfgang Muthspiel

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The first album on guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel's new label is something of a departure for him. Related only tangentially to jazz, it consists mostly of Muthspiel's musical settings of lyrics by Bernd Hagg, which are sung by Rebekka Bakken; Bakken is accompanied by Muthspiel, saxophonist Chris Cheek, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Brian Blade. How does it work? Quite nicely, really. Bakken is a fine and expressive singer with a voice somewhere between Marianne Faithfull and Syd Straw, and Muthspiel's arrangements are complex and yet accessible; on songs like "Sister" and "Angela" there are moments of pure pop bliss, but things are generally a bit more angular and abstract than that. Hagg's lyrics, which are written in English, sometimes distract; his grasp of English idiom is not entirely firm (a line like "Can I pay now for the chance that concocted us here?" is, sadly, not atypical). But Muthspiel's music and Bakken's fine singing are more than enough to counterbalance the occasionally distressing lyrical misstep. Recommended.

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