Elisabeth Lohninger Quartet – Live (2012)

A vibrant and exciting live album, the aptly titled Live by the Elisabeth Lohninger Quartet finds the Austrian singer in her element and backed by a spirited and colorful band. Her nuanced, natural tones are a perfect fit on stage and her enunciation pulls us into the notes and words with almost hypnotic effects.

Live was recorded during Lohninger’s spring 2012 tour of the Czech Republic. The singer is joined by pianist Walter Fischbacher, bassist Petr Dvorsky and drummer Ulf Stricker. The band easily swings between delicate moments and seriously sharp jams, with Stricker popping out some hearty solos and Fischbacher supporting with intuitive and insightful playing. Dvorsky appears to be the pin to hold it all together, but he exceeds his robust role to provide some oaky layers of his own.

Of course, for the quartet it’s all about connectivity — and that’s something that comes with time.

“The music gets more intense, more intimate,” Lohninger explains. “After a few shows, you feel more liberated and communicate more freely with each other because you simply know each other so much better on a musical and personal level. The audience senses that.”

The audience certainly does seem to appreciate what the group is up to on Live and they’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

Commencing with the John Lennon and Paul McCartney-penned “Here, There and Everywhere,” the group presents a slightly jazzy flow to the original. Lohninger hits the higher notes with soft beauty and manages the tempo change gracefully, picking up the gait and shifting back down again with effortlessness.

The lovely “River” by Joni Mitchell is handled with care. Accented nicely by Fischbacher’s ivory flourishes, the piece is wonderfully and sensitively delivered. Lohninger makes all the right adjustments for her voice, sinking it a little deeper in texture and drawing the words into her own emotional space. The disorderly “La Puerta” may well be the counterpoint, jamming as it does with a rowdy Latin feel. Lohninger handles the lyrics beautifully, but it’s Stricker who steps to the fore with a lively solo that has the place rocking.

Also of note is a version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a song that many believe has been sung by too many artists too many times. Running into this sort of material is always a risk, especially given the quality of the original, but the quartet is game. The piece lets Lohninger reconnoitre the borders of her range. She soars and doesn’t fake the emotion, delivering more than a few heartrending moments along the way.

A vigorous and refreshing piece of work, LIVE is an album that conveys the words and work of one of jazz’s most interesting and imaginative vocalists in a live setting. The Elisabeth Lohninger Quartet stuns and delights, verifying their awareness of the songs and, even better, their awareness of one another.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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