CD review

Kadri Voorand –  “In Duo with Mihkel Mälgand”

Kadri Voorand –  In Duo with Mihkel Mälgand
(ACT 9739-2. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

In each of the twelve songs on this highly original album, time seems to expand. It’s the way Estonian singer-pianist-composer Kadri Voorand (along with bassist Mihkel Mälgand) has arranged them- each song seems bigger on the inside than out. At the end of the album is I Stopped Time, the longest on the recording at just over five minutes. It’s an intimate, jazz-inflected, spacious ballad, with Mälgand’s resonant, woody bass, and ringing piano tone. It has a deceptive simplicity: you feel Voorand could play a lot of notes if she wanted – but makes the choice not to.

At the jazzier end of her songs, she plunges into virtuosic complexity. The duo’s composition Ageing Child is in 7, with its overtones of 1970s Tubular Bells. It’s strongly rhythmic, (she admires Chick Corea) with repeated interlocking phrases that keep you listening for the next unexpected phrase. Voorand’s Like Yoko And John is wryly romantic, with agile speedy scat sung in unison with the piano. The tiny intense sections hook you in with stops and arco bass. Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us mixes jazz grooves, funky chords and dancing piano lines with Eastern European rhythms. Looped backing vocals soften the quickfire lyrics, then there’s stunning Tania Maria-ish scat and a bluesily double-stopped bass solo. Voorand’s quirky I Must Stop Eating Chocolate is blues-drenched too, but rootsy and sparse. The title’s humour gives way to thought-provoking lyrics (“I must start eating sadness”) and the percussive rustle of a chocolate wrapper.

Many songs are more pop-influenced, like the duo’s co-written I’m Not In Love, with a circling melody and acoustic guitar (Mälgand.) Each romantic line has an ironical twist: ‘I’m in love with the breakfast we made/ I’m not in love with you,” counteracted by a musical box and Voorand on glockenspiel. Behind the bright meandering melody of Still In Love, Voorand uses the piano like a band: deep bass lines, and piano riffs like horn or backing vocals. Voorand’s What If I Did Kill You could be Kate Bush duetting in a Nick Cave murder ballad (here with singer NOËP.)

Voorand comes from a family of folk musicians, and she grew up singing and playing traditional Estonian music. “Nordic runo singing surrounded me, and the improvisational way of that kind of singing and telling stories has probably influenced me very strongly,” she told one interviewer. Two songs are in Estonian. She’s done a luscious arrangement of Kättemaks/Revenge (Talsi/ Tätte) for the a capella group Estonian Voices. The duo version here is full of reverb, as if played in a cathedral, with diaphanous electronica. The voice is breathy and intimate, then hard-edged like a diamond. Voorand plays kalimba on Õhtu / Evening, co-written with Kersti Merilaas, and the African feel sits beautifully with the looped vocal harmonies. The Joni-esque I Drove A 1,000 Miles is gently introspective, stripped back to voice and guitar. Where Would You Be is dreamy with bass drone, and folk ornamentation in the voice. Voorand herself plays layers of pizzicato and bowed violin phrases that speed up and envelop you completely in the whirl.

“When the music plays/ I can hide away/ and feel no fear from time,” Voorand sings in I Stopped Time. This stirring together of jazz, folk and pop, with thoughtful arrangements from these distinctive musicians, takes you, for a while, off into another world.

Categories: CD review

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