While sorting through material for my first full-length musical poetry, aka jazzoetry album, I came across three poems I had already recorded. Listening back to them with fresh ears, I suddenly felt that they were thematically so different from the other pieces I was compiling for the album, that I decided to release these three pieces separately. So on January 20, 2018 these poems will be available as a three-track EP in all digital music stores, titled A Breath She Took, which is also the name of the first jazzoetry piece.
All three poems, are of autobiographical nature, which is exactly why these three pieces stood out from the other poems, in which I am exploring an array of unusual, often imagined stories about other women from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and their struggles – but not my own. Maybe in a metaphorical way though, now thinking of them…
Nevertheless, all of these recordings follow the same principle of poetry + jazz [ = jazzoetry] that I developed around 2009 and first released as a single with, Gold & Frankincense, followed by the EP During the Hours. Once I have completed a poem, the recording process of each one is very individual: I search for a jazz musician with great improvisational talent, whose instrument and playing temperament feels and sounds most suitable to interpret the meaning and atmosphere of that specific piece.
My goal is always to capture complete performances. Unlike the usual studio procedure of assembling tracks, I don’t want any overdubbing or editing to take place, which would spoil the principle of a live improvisation. That’s why I ask each musical soloist – who has never read the poems prior to their studio arrival – to respond to my reading as if they were at a live jazz gig, improvising on the spot. Each piece is recorded live in two separate booths in dialogue: with my recital of the poem and the individual instrumentalist’s interpretation. The atmosphere is often inspiring and electric and invariably, my concept is achieved within two to three takes.
For the poem A Breath She Took, which is the first piece on the EP, I chose for instance the cello for its warm and resonant sound and its associated features, the softly swung curvatures of a female body. Albeit loving the piano, I have a very close relationship with the cello. It was my first instrument as a child. I was extremely proud to have been chosen to be trained to play in the school orchestra. When we moved to Germany, however, I was quite heartbroken that I had to give it up because it belonged to the school.
Ironically, later, my mother bought herself one and started taking lessons, which obviously brought up a lot of feelings. The cello therefore mirrors perfectly not only my longing for that instrument and the close relationship I was developing with it, but my longing for a nurturing and loving mother.
I asked the cellist Matthew Cooker to provide his improvisational talents. He is one of Los Angeles most prolific cellists and has played in many orchestras and for diverse live artists (like Barbra Streisand and Luis Miguel). I first met him on a studio session for a few tracks on my album The World I am Livings In that consists of very sparsely instrumented songs surrounding themes of loss. Matthew plays with the right amount of tenderness, fierceness and edginess a cellist, I think, must have. He seems to have the right amount of everything, of resin, ego, musicality and elbow grease.
When we were recording A Breath She Took in the studio, I felt that that he was translating the contents of that piece and so complimenting my reading – that once again was recording live, like a dialogue between voice and instrument – that I spontaneously decided to ask him improvise over my reading of another piece, Goldfish Bowl, which is the second poem on the EP.
This piece is about the taxing and highly confusing effects of being psychologically abused. It’s about how a state of crazy and feeling trapped slowly takes hold, destroying self-confidence and self-trust. Goldfish Bowl is about feeling helpless, even hopeless: the abuse has already taken a severe toll…
The third and last piece on the EP, Ink on Silk is similar to Goldfish Bowl in a way that its about feeling highly frustrated and crazy-made. In Goldfish Bowl there’s a permanent state of lingering, total confusion and powerlessness, whereby in Ink on Silk is about trying to solve things but not being able to have any impact, thus getting more and more infuriated and frustrated – which is why a percussive instrument with clanging metal bars seemed so suitable.
I had heard the vibraphonist, Nick Mancini, a couple of times live and was always impressed by his eagerness and fearlessness to improvise both rhythmically and melodically on his instrument. Some soloists carefully plan their improvisations but Nick almost lets his instrument lead him, moreover, seduce him into stepping out onto a stormy expedition. During the recording of Ink on Silk, he was also able to create some quite unusual sounds by almost bending the aluminium sound bars with his felt mallets and giving the piece the perfect colourings…