Photo credit: Wanja Slavin
LUCIA CADOTSCH’s Speak Low and Speak Low Renditions put her uniquely modern stamp on the standards. Lucia won the 2017 ECHO Jazz Award 2017 for best vocalist. AJ Dehany caught up with her at the Schiffbauhalle last night before tonight’s headline appearance at Match & Fuse Festival in Zürich.
Lucia Cadotsch grew up in Zürich but has been based in Berlin for fifteen years. “Almost a Berliner!” she says. I’ve been a fan since I saw her band the quartet Schneeweiss & Rosenrot at the Vortex in London in 2013. I was sad to hear they’d split up.
“We had a couple more gigs after but then it was over. We couldn’t find a theme for the fourth album, our interests were going too much apart. It was really sad. It was really a breakup for me, my first band. But afterwards it made sense because now I could kind of separate my broad interests into different visions. Before was one big mashup, which was fun, to have this weird music where everything is allowed.”
Lucia won the 2017 ECHO Jazz Award 2017 for best vocalist for her haunting reworkings of the standards on the “Speak Low” album with bass player Petter Eldh and saxophonist Otis Sandsjö. The album contains unforgettable reworkings of jazz standards including Strange Fruit, and is named after a Kurt Weill song. I mention that I’ve got a tape of Kurt Weill singing “Speak Low” accompanying himself on piano.
“Yeah that’s really beautiful. In English with the really strong accent, it’s so charming. It’s interesting because now the German accent is not connected to something so charming, but back then…” She starts singing, “When you speak low, your summer day withers away, too soon, too soon…”
“Is that an influence on the trio, the spareness, the sparseness, the spaciousness of that recording?”
“Our version is one of the dance pieces on the album!” she laughs. “Maybe the Billie Holliday version was more influential for us, but we came up with something completely different.”
“There are similarities in the sparing use of vibrato.”
“The first jazz teacher I had told me in the first lesson: don’t use vibrato on every note. It’s a colour. If you have it on every tone its so boring. I use it, but it’s not so present. I never really listened to Billie Holiday until I started making music. It feels very natural to sing along with her, which I never felt with Sarah Vaughan or Ella. I feel very connected to her way of approaching music and her time feel is very much like how I feel time.
“When I was a teenager The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the album we all listened to and I was always trying to imitate all her fast ornamentation and I could never do it. What music suits you and your voice is extreme because of the nature of your instrument: you’re born with it. But when it comes to phrasing and timing some people are always in the front and some are laid back. It comes with personality. I freak out when the tempo goes too fast. I can’t feel it any more!”
The remix-of-the-remix companion piece Speak Low Renditions was released as a tape. The Renditions album consists of electronic reconstructions and deconstructions of the Speak Low tracks.
“After I did the trio album I felt like I wanna hear how my friends hear my music, the musicians I’ve been working with or who have been part of my musical community, in London, Berlin, Switzerland, those three scenes. I asked musicians that I really admire and who have a really strong character and that’s how the album came together. I asked ten people and everyone sent a track back. I spent quite a lot of time in finding the right order. I didn’t want to make it sound like a playlist. I wanted to make an album.”
Tonight’s concert in Zurich will consist of both acoustic trio tracks and the expanded electronic format of Renditions. “Those tracks weren’t initially made to be performed,” I say, “so you’re performing the unperformable?”
“Yeah, exactly! There’s one critic who said “Lucia turns everything upside down again.” We had this really strong concept with three acoustic instruments and very reduced instrumentation, and now we do an electronic album with the standards and it’s like ‘What?’ I like to surprise people I guess. You have to kind of disappoint their expectations in a way to keep it fresh. Or just not go to the expected.
“I see the trio album itself as a remix version of the old songs. We are ‘live sampling’ small bits from the original tracks and zooming into details like a clarinet line on a Billie Holiday arrangement, we take this one bar as a bassline, transpose it down and make a loop out of that using quotes from the originals. We do it live on instruments so you can look at it as if it is a remix of the old tracks on acoustic instruments. And then the remixes are remixes of our remixes, so it’s an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation. We’ve been playing these tunes for two and a half years now. We just kind of dig into them deeper and deeper by looking at them from these different angles. And playing remixes live was an inspiring approach to see how we can we can we take this to find a new form. We’re not gonna play it like on the remix album but make a new live version that is inspired by the remix. Just go further and develop and push the limits.”
AJ Dehany writes about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk
Lucia Cadotsch Speak Low performs tonight 30 September at Match & Fuse Festival, Zürich.
LINK: Review of Speak Low Renditions