Magni Wentzel


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Divergences, indeed. Evidently, the versatile Norwegian singer/guitarist Magni Wentzel long ago decided that rigid categories are for the birds, and accordingly delivers an album with a fearlessly, uninhibitedly split personality. For a start, she sings a selection of Spanish songs from the 16th and 20th centuries, accompanying herself on classical guitar -- a rare and difficult feat in itself. Her "classical" voice has a slightly raw quality with only a flicker of a vibrato; her guitar work is impeccable. The most attractive offering is a pair of folk songs credited to the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and she handles four selections from Manuel de Falla's Seven Popular Spanish Songs with idiomatic flair. Following the songs are two selections for solo guitar by Joaquin Rodrigo and Enriqué Granados, forming a lyrical midway intermezzo. Then the gears appear to shift entirely in another direction as Wentzel turns to American pop and jazz songs the rest of the way, with the backing of the equally fearless category-jumper Roger Kellaway on piano and Danish bassist Mads Vinding. Yet the transition is not nearly as shattering as it may seem, for as the last notes of Wentzel's guitar in Granados melt away, the mood is picked up by Kellaway's sensitive, crystalline piano intro on "As You Are." On the liveliest track, "Will You Still Be Mine," Wentzel sings with a comfortable freedom of phrasing and good feeling for the jazz pulse, while Kellaway's right hand is full of inventive comments and unpredictable digressions. Incorrigible purists on both sides of the fence -- as well as those who stock American CD shops -- will be at a loss as to what to make of this disc. But in taking a polystylistic risk that surely has few, if any, precedents, Wentzel has the talent to pull it off.

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