Advertisement
Advertisement

Sophie Tassignon: Mysteries Unfold

In brief:
"By any reasonable standard, the new solo album from Berlin-based Belgian vocalist Sophie Tassignon is an extraordinary achievement, but not by the standards of jazz as we know it"

The day can’t be too far off when the latest recording of Mahler’s symphonies will be sent to a jazz magazine or jazz radio programme and be reviewed without the tongue going anywhere close to the cheek. It’s not a question of the emperor’s new clothes but whether or not the emperor, or in this case the empress, has turned up dazzlingly clothed at the wrong event or been sent there in error.

By any reasonable standard, the new solo album from Berlin-based Belgian vocalist Sophie Tassignon is an extraordinary achievement, but not by the standards of jazz as we know it. With layered a capella vocals (all hers) and ancillary electro-acoustics she delivers from some haunting location a group of songs varying in tone from Dolly Parton’s Jolene to Vivaldi’s Cum Dederit and the folk-rock chart Witches, made famous by Canadian group The Cowboy Junkies.

Advertisement

It’s as though the depth of emotion, and indeed the narrative, of the known songs have come to be held in contempt by our familiarity, such as it is. For instance, we need to be reminded that Jolene, lost in the mawkish atmosphere of country & western music, is a character being solemnly entreated to stop making plays for the narrator-singer’s lover. The way Tassignon sees it, this is a matter of almost unbearable extremity. Each of the performances is a rescue act, or at least a transposition to a place of redefining, often elevated by over-arching polyphony and ethereal soundscapes.

Tassignon does have jazz antecedents – she’s the leader of the group Khyal, which weds Arabic poetry to jazz, and is prominent on the free impro scene – but here she has her feet planted on different soil. Then again, if she sees a connection it’s probably up to us to think or listen twice. Thematically, the set includes four original songs and enjoins the plight of women through history in terms of their closed-down voices. The opener, about a female warrior, is much more vivid and capacious than its origins in a 1978 Russian film by Nikita Mikhalkov.

Mysteries Unfold is an exploration of raw emotion in sound. As an unpredicated starter, that could be a definition of jazz. But Mysteries Unfold is not jazz. Its star rating here thus reflects a dissimilar set of values.

Discography
Gubi Okayannie; Jolene; Don’t Be So Shy With Me; Descending Tide; Witches; La Nuit; Cum Dederit; Mysteries Unfold (37.00)
Tassignon (v, elec). Berlin, 2015-18.
RareNoise RNR119

Latest audio reviews

Advertisement

More from this author

Advertisement

Jazz Journal articles by month

Advertisement

Baden Powell: Images On Guitar

Released in 1972, Images On Guitar sees legendary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell joined by a small ensemble, performing a variety of tracks including several...
Advertisement

Obituary: Johnny Mandel

Johnny Mandel, composer, arranger and instrumentalist, died at his home in Ojai, California on 29 June. He was 94. He will mainly be remembered...
Advertisement

Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band – a history

In 1959 Metronome published what it called “The All Time All Star Poll”, which was won by Charlie Parker with Miles Davis and Gerry...
Advertisement

Don’t Worry ’Bout The Bear: From The Blues To Jazz, Rock & Roll And Black Sabbath

Jim Simpson has been a musician, bandleader, promotor, record producer, festival director, manager, journalist and photographer in his nigh on 60 years in what...
Advertisement

Bullets and Ballads: Pete Kelly’s Blues

When film music historians discuss the increasing influence of jazz on movie soundtracks through the 1940s and into the 1950s, they usually mention films...
Advertisement

JJ 01/92: Jan Garbarek – Photo With . . .

This session comes forward again as a result of the steady digitalisation of the ECM catalogue. Thirteen years have wrought few significant changes in...
"By any reasonable standard, the new solo album from Berlin-based Belgian vocalist Sophie Tassignon is an extraordinary achievement, but not by the standards of jazz as we know it"Sophie Tassignon: Mysteries Unfold