Siren Song: Live at Arsenal

Elisabeth Kontomanou

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Siren Song: Live at Arsenal Review

by Michael G. Nastos

In a project that is much more than merely subtle or understated, the talented vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou teams with the Orchestre National de Lorraine conducted by Jacques Mercier for this live performance appropriately dedicated to the winsome call of lovers far away and tempting to all. The supporting ensemble is gargantuan in size, but quite restrained in conceptual and executed charts, holding up foglike urban landscapes for the vocalist to unobtrusively pass through. Alongside her regular working quartet, Kontomanou's deeply soulful and resonant singing wafts, drifts, and serenely floats on pathways not unlike the great Sarah Vaughan, and in many ways goes beyond what the Divine One did in a similar setting. Not at all soupy or soppy, Kontomanou and her helpers sift through some exquisite standards, Ellingtonia, a pop or blues motif, and one of her originals. With a winsome but firm posture, Kontomanou breezes through "A Time for Love," "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," and the gospel-flavored "Come Sunday" with the orchestra buoying her on the horizon with pillow-soft clouds of strings and horns. Her lone original, "Summer," is a bit more upbeat, driven by bassist Thomas Bramerie and pianist Laurent Courthaliac, with the band playing in the bridge of the song only. Fond of waltz tempos throughout, Kontomanou plays her part in the title track as vixen and temptress in delightful counterpoint with the strings, and gets into a New York City blues mood for "Dreams of Gold." Several of these arrangements come from the vaunted jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell or lesser-known Gustav Karlström, all with peace and tranquility in mind. Special audiences who appreciate the romantic side of jazz will find this CD refreshing and alluring, perfect for late-night mingling, as Elisabeth Kontomanou presents her shining hour in an already formative and blossoming career.

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