Lucia Cadotsch – Speak Low
Speak Low – Yellowbird 2016 – YEB 77611
Swiss singer Lucia Cadotsch teams up with Otis Sandsjo on the tenor saxophone and Petter Eldh on the upright bass to record an album of standard jazz vocal tunes. Cadotsch has a lovely voice and a good intuition for melodic lines, but it’s really the “rhythm section” that makes this record such a delight. Traditionally a free jazzer, Sandsjo evolves from gently holding up Cadotsch’s delivery to all-out overtone harmonics and key slapping on his solo. When the group comes back, Sandsjo continues reaching for the overtones, and then dials it all the way back to a fluttery whisper. Meanwhile, Eldh has been left with the task of both keeping rhythm with exaggerated staccato and forming the melodic triads that outline the path for the others.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up two weaknesses here. First – the LP includes a cover of Strange Fruit which is not included in the Spotify version of the album. I understand the appeal, as Billie Holiday’s original has a chilling beauty unmatched by anything in modern music. Listening to this, it seems like Cadotsch doesn’t fully understand the why. At the minimum, she is not capable of expressing the same emotions. Her delivery is flat, emphasis in the wrong places. The arrangement is interesting, but it doesn’t do the original justice. The innovations that work so well on showtunes just don’t seem applicable to a somber song about the dark reality of American race relations.
The second complaint I have is about the packaging of the record. The album is inside a stiff card paper sleeve that is meant to seem fancy but it is made too tight and the record had to be shoved in at the production factory. When removed from the sleeve, the record had a number of small scratches and a deep cluster of scratches that make a pronounced noise during the cover of Gloomy Sunday. I will be contacting the label about it, but I can’t imagine how they are going to solve that since all the records have already been made and packaged and surely many of them are damaged similarly to mine. Out of curiosity, I put the disc into a plain white paper sleeve and then managed to get that to fit into the stiff card inner and all of that into the outer sleeve. Obviously this was nowhere near as handsome as the original package but it is my opinion that protecting the record must be the primary function of the sleeve and anything interesting you can do on top of that is the part that is art.