Ester Wiesnerová: Blue Journal

Berklee-educated Slovakian singer and composer plays contemporary jazz with a touch of free in a quintet where harp is the chordal instrument


Although this is her first album, Slovakian singer-songwriter Ester Wiesnerová is gradually developing a widespread reputation not only as a performing artist but also as a teacher.

From early childhood she was taught piano by her mother, then began singing, winning the New Faces of Slovak Jazz competition. When she was eighteen, she went to Paris to audition for a place at Boston’s Berklee College of Music where she attained her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance.

Her education continued at the New England Conservatory where she achieved a master’s in Jazz Composition. Meanwhile, she was gaining experience as a performer at festivals in Central America and Asia and at New York’s Café Vivaldi, all the while honing her skill as a composer and lyricist.

On Blue Journal Wiesnerová has chosen to sing 11 of her compositions, their variety in style evidence of the musical richness of her Eastern European background. That said, with a few brief exceptions, the lyrics are all in English.

Concepts for the songs are varied and intellectually stimulating, dealing as they do with self-discovery (Sinking Deep), the failings of social media (Thirsty) and nature (Nightingales And Maple Trees). Stylistically, the musical form is contemporary jazz with occasional leanings into free jazz.

Wiesnerová’s collaborators are multi-national: saxophonist Sam Knight is British, harpist Charles Overton is American, percussionist Kan Yanabe is Japanese, and bassist Michal Šelep is a fellow Slovakian. Both Knight and Overton are extensively featured soloists, the former often aggressive, the latter with flowing melodic lines. The rhythmic underpinning from bass and percussion is lively, Yanabe having his spotlight moment on Nightingales And Maple Trees.

Ester Wiesnerová’s vocal sound is fresh and unmannered, her diction clear, thus allowing the listener to hear the meaning of and the thinking behind the lyrics. Those whose taste is for contemporary trends in jazz singing will find much to enjoy here.

Sinking Deep; Circles; Burrito; Thirsty; Feet Are Screaming; Nightingales And Maple Trees; Who Are You Now; Citlivli; Dripping; I’m Not Spinning If It Rains; Epilogue (64.03)
Wiesnerová (v); Sam Knight (s); Charles Overton (hp); Michal Šelep (b); Kan Yanabe (pc). Austria, autumn 2021.