Svetlana Marinchenko Trio: Letters To My Little Girl

The Russian pianist's trio - and jazz convention - are extended by the addition of electronics, backbeats and vocalese


The child addressed in Russian pianist Marinchenko’s super album is her inner one, so the nine compositions are autobiographical and cathartic. As such and as so often when music sets out to tell a tale, the details can never be pinned down. Maybe all the listener can hope for is a collection of emotional states, and there are plenty of them. Suffice to say that they point to a complete individual in ranging from the contemplative to the hopeful to the joyous, expressed in a conventional jazz format inspiringly augmented.

The reinforcements come from vocalists Enji Erkhembayar and Fiona Grond (two charts each) and the ubiquitous electronic “effects” of Mattheus von Schlippe (all charts bar the second). The first thing to note is how the album, nominally by a piano trio, balloons into much more with these additions, and not because an unaugmented trio is felt to be wanting. Anyone about to form a trio might profit from Marinchenko’s decision to infuse the basic sound with elements that complement and enrich it, von Schlippe’s created in the studio with taste and restraint.

Marinchenko’s ambition on this album is matched by her extrovert piano style, one nonetheless capable of being adapted to looking inward. Dive, for example, is marked by the emphatic low-register sforzando on the first two beats of its common time, a short von Schlippe “deluge” and a full-steam-ahead section that, apart from anything else, further establishes her basic credentials. Those are enhanced by Ron Carter alumnus Peter Cudek on bass and the powerhouse drumming of Ofri Nehemya, who has performed with Avishai Cohen.

Nehemya is prominent on the opening Bear Can Dance, with von Schlippe’s “static” effects immediately establishing the trio’s enhanced environment. But it’s on the wistful title track that the vocals, or vocalese (Grond), first come into their own, with those by Erkhembayar on The Threads culminating in a spoken, megaphone-like statement.

Michael and Morning Alone begin as plaintive tunes, the first with a strong backbeat that reflects Marinchenko’s interest in hip-hop, and the second starting out with meandering piano and unison vocalese and bass but setting out on a slightly banal tune. Both reveal, as elsewhere, her classical training and the pianistic armoury that comes with it, put to good effect in Lighthouse after much von Schlippe intervention, spoken words (by Marinchenko) and a second phase in which she racks up the energy quotient.

(1) Bear Can Dance; (2) Hide ‘n’ Seek; (3) Letters To My Little Girl; (4) The Threads; (5) Dive; Michael; (6) Morning Alone; (7) Lighthouse; (8) Release (51.57)
Marinchenko (p); Fiona Grond, Enji Herkembayar (v); Peter Cudek (b); Ofri Nehemyar (d); Mattheus von Schlippe (elec). Munich, December 2019.
Losen Records LOS 260-2