Swedish singer songwriter Sophie Duner is an artist unknown to me before this recording but aquick Google revealed that she has been recorded a few times before and her quality work on Rain in Spain suggests that her individualistic approach to Jazz vocals deserves further documentation. Actually, much of her music inhabits that shady grey area between Cabaret and traditional Jazz singing but that’s not a bad thing here. Her sound reminds me at times of the tragically under appreciated, and now sadly departed, Pam Bricker, particularly when she sings head voice. She bravely confronts the reverb-less purist approach of the CIMP aestheticwith solid intonation and assurance of phrase. The set is a balanced mix of originals and standards. The former tend to lean in the Cabaret direction but not stereotypically so and musically they contain enough original touches to sound fresh. Textually, her occasionally cryptic lyrics explore the vagaries of male-female relationships with a wryness, authenticity, and humor that springs from real life experienceno starry eyed romanticism here. The standards benefit from her spare recasting of the overly familiar and she manages to breath new life into such war-horses as “Lush Life” and “Caravan.” She is backed by a fine group and it’s clear from the empathy and interplay that this is a real band and not just a couple of cats assembled to back a “chick singer.” Penman is consistently solid and swinging; Stuart gets off some nice solos, and, although his approach reminds me of Middle Eastern drumming, micro-percussionist Bell makes a defining contribution to the group sound. As enjoyable as this set is, I wasn’t too enamored of CIMP’s purist approach to recording this time out. Although Sophie fares well enough in the bone-dry acoustic, a little reverb wouldn’t have hurt either. I was puzzled too by the decision to record the vocals hard left in the mix instead of the traditional center that most vocal albums are recorded. Also, Penman is consistently under-miked and at times, as on “Marionettes,” Sophie is fighting to be heard over the guitar and percussion. These quibbles aside, it’s the music that counts and Rain in Spain is good music, fine singing, and interesting writing ably performed by four excellent musicians. Let’s hear more from Sophie and company.
David Kane, Cadence Magazine
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