Christina Gustafsson: My Move (2009)
Recent years appear to have seen a resurgence of jazz vocalists, with singers covering songs from across musical genres as well as performing originals. Scandinavia has produced some fine new singers to help in this resurgence: Christina Gustafsson, from Sweden, has the potential to be one of the best. Her second album features the same core group of musicians as her debut, Moments Free (Prophone, 2007), but unlike her all-original debut, My Move mixes originals with standards.
Gustafsson has an appealing voice: light, cheerful and sensual, with the occasional hint of an American accent betraying the two years she spent studying music in New York. She is not a blues shouter; her voice is more reminiscent of the softer, more subtle, style of Stacey Kent or Silje Nergaard. Her choice of material and the quality of production matches this sound, ensuring that the impact of even the smallest vocal inflection is clear and effective.
My Move's originals are all co-written by Gustafsson. "My Move" has a Latin feel to it and features some excellent single-note guitar playing. "Take a Fall," telling the tale of a woman who "can't see any warning signs" as her life seemingly falls apart, is the finest of the originals, and features Gustafsson's best vocal performance as well as some tasteful and complementary percussion work from Calle Rasmusson. None of the self-penned tracks threaten to outshine the standards either musically or lyrically, but they are not totally outclassed by the more familiar songs.
Gustafsson's singing on Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" is beautifully understated, but bassist Martin Höper's rather idiosyncratic vocal tends to overshadow Gustafsson to the song's detriment. The 64 second version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Happy Talk," a duet between Gustafsson and Höper's double-bass, is marginally more effective.
The other standards fare much better. "Stormy Weather" is a standout track, Gustafsson's voice possessing a slightly harder edge to it than on the rest of the album. The band drives the song along at a faster than usual pace, as the vocal and instruments combine to give a sense that the singer has already weathered the storm and is back in control.
While Gustafsson's singing is crystal clear and delightful throughout My Move, the album's success is also due to the quality of the musicians. The rhythm section of Rasmusson and Höper is tight and solid, while Max Schultz and Erik Söderlind consistently produce fresh and sympathetic guitar parts. The entire group works together to excellent effect, creating a beautiful and uplifting album.
Track Listing: Your Smiling Face; Take a Fall; My Move; I've Got the World on a String; Standing Where the Changes Begin; Winter has Gone; Smile; Happy Talk; Stormy Weather; In the Light of New York; Smiling Hour.
Personnel: Christina Gustafsson: vocals; Max Schultz: guitar; Erik Söderlind: guitar; Martin Höper: double-bass, vocal (7); Calle Rasmusson: drums; Pål Svenre: piano (11); Sebastian Notini: percussion (11); Rigmor Gustafsson: backing vocals (3, 11); Sofia Pettersson: backing vocals (11); Lina Nyberg: backing vocals (11).