Nadine Axisa is a classically trained Maltese singer who has been performing in jazz clubs since the age of 15. She sings with the ethnic jazz band Trania, and her 2014 debut solo album Velvet, which featured 12 easy listening originals, earned her a four-star review in Jazz Journal.
Axisa’s second offering, Il-Ħoss Tal-Għabex (The Sound Of Twilight), was recorded at Temple Studio in Mistra Bay on Malta’s north coast. It represents a radical departure from Velvet, taking 11 Maltese classics from the 1970s and 1980s and reimagining them in a contemporary nu-jazz style using a combination of electronic effects with more traditional jazz instruments such as piano, bass and drums.
On a vocal level, the standard jazz shapes and scat singing of her first album have given way to an ethereal, dreamy delivery reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto or Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66.
Highlights include the keyboard meanderings of Malta’s 1972 Eurovison entry L-Imħabba; the lovely traditional Lament, with its gurgling programming, accelerating pace, busy keyboards and lyrics by poet and folk singer Frans Baldacchino; the bluesy opening piano of Fit-Tieġ Tan-Neputija, popularised by former Malta Bums singer Toni Camilleri in the 1970s, which features bubbly bass lines and programmed effects recalling Star Wars‘ R2-D2; and Charles Camilleri and Joe Friggieri’s funky, upbeat Il-Festa, whose gentle background synths and programmed percussion will get your toe tapping.
Iż-Zmien Għaddej was originally a hit for popular Maltese group The Greenfields, winners of a Lifetime Achievement gong at this year’s Malta Music Awards, where this album took the prize for Best Album In Maltese.
The experimental approach of melding effects, instruments and vocals with established material is intriguing, although in places the programmed sounds are a little too dominant, causing the singer to fight with the over-amplified effects. Overall, though, this is an intriguing mixture of classic Maltese pop with world, jazz and sonic sensibilities.
Qalu li Raw; Iż-Zmien Għaddej; L-Imħabba; Lament; Lil Ommi; Fit-Tieġ Tan-Neputija; Lulju Lewn In-Naħal Fis-Sakra; Il-Festa; Saħħa Malta; Rajt Raġel; Malta (52.00)
Axisa (v); Joe Debono (p, kyb, b, syn); Oliver Degabriele (db); Manuel Pulis (d); David Vella (syn, effects, prog). Mistra, Malta, 2019.
Nadine Mercieca 078219140324