House of Mirrors
Born in Germany, educated in both Europe and the United States and raised in a bilingual house, jazz vocalist Kristiana Roemer shows serious chops, great songwriting ideas and subtle envelope-pushing on a debut album that recalls mid-period Joni Mitchell one minute (the opening, title track) and takes me back to the new ways into jazz singing that I heard from the likes of Patricia Barber (Beauty Is A Wound) and Kurt Elling (Virgin Soil).
Most of the tunes are originals but she wraps her vocals around Stanley Turrentine’s Sugar and it’s gorgeous with wafting sax by Dayna Stephens and the winding drums of Adam Arruda – again I think most of Kurt Elling here in the way Roemer phrases. There’s also a cover of Charles Mingus’ ballad-in-tribute, Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love. These two songs are expertly handled, as is a German poem (Deine Hände) and the song Dark Night of the Soul interpolates a poem of Roemer’s as spoken-word coda.
Guitarist Ben Monder sits in to add some fire to the super low-key smolder of this expert band. The backing here very much reminds me of when Patricia Barber released a slew of great records across the mid/late 1990s.
There’s so much to come from Roemer – you can just tell, you can feel it, you can hear the hints at it. But she’s offered more than enough in a very controlled and specific debut. This is a total class act.
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