Offpiste Gurus - In Case of Fire
(Yellowbird yeb-7757 CD Review by Peter Slavid)
It's only a few weeks since the outpouring of words about David Bowie included a lot of praise for his work with jazz musicians. This prompted me to think about what I see as an encouraging blurring of the boundaries between rock, pop, folk and jazz.
I have personally never found the words of jazz standards to be exactly stimulating intellectually, and successful jazz flirtations with pop and folk have tended to concentrate on exploiting the tunes rather than the words.
So when I get a CD from a singer/songwriter who describes herself as working “in the borderland between rock, jazz and indie-pop” it at least deserves a proper listen.
Offpiste Gurus are an interesting combination. Trinelese Vaering from Denmark is basically an indie pop singer – a really nice pure voice but quite straightforward. Her collaboration with Frederik Lundin goes back for over two decades and their 1993 album People, Places, Times and Faces was nominated for a Grammy. (More here). They have also collaborated with Nordic jazz musicians such as Palle Danielsson and Bobo Stenson. She writes and sings words that are a cut above the average pop song with a wry sense of humour. These are tales of modern not entirely successful relationships. They catalogue the angst of a single woman. The words are sometimes a bit spooky “I roamed through your garbage, listened in on your calls” and sometimes bitter “Are you one of those guys who can't buy a decent gift unless provided with a shopping list”
The music is from an acoustic, folksy jazz trio including the talented well established saxophonist and bandleader in Fredrik Lundin with drummer Jeppe Gram and bass Thomas Vang plus a few guests. The music shares some of the quirkiness of the words. Sometimes its a sparse accompaniment, sometimes funky, sometimes a touch of the blues. There's even occasional touches of banjo.
And I must offer a word of praise for the CD design in a bold red and white, with a proper booklet containing all the words of the songs in clear and legible print (something all too rare these days).
Your view of this CD will depend a lot on how you approach it. It's not the most exciting and original jazz, and the singing is good but not exceptional. But in my view the words elevate this above the mundane – its the songs that win through and make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Peter Slavid broadcasts a weekly radio show at mixcloud.com/ukjazz