Lucia Cadotsch: Speak Low II review – jazz standards dissolved and recast

(We Jazz Records)
Cadotsch’s second album continues down an unusual path, combining her spellbinding singing with wayward improv

Impassive purity ... Lucia Cadotsch.
Impassive purity ... Lucia Cadotsch. Photograph: Dovile Sermokas undefined
Impassive purity ... Lucia Cadotsch. Photograph: Dovile Sermokas undefined
John Fordham
Fri 13 Nov 2020 03.30 EST

Lucia Cadotsch’s 2016 debut Speak Low unveiled the young Swiss musician’s unusual proposition, singing the classics with spellbindingly impassive purity alongside two wayward Swedish free-improvisers. Her follow-up is even more startling, primarily for the moment where Cadotsch elides two songs written more than 30 years apart – one for swing fans on the brink of the second world war, the other born out of early 1970s psychedelia – and makes them sound inseparable and contemporary. First she casually invigorates and dismantles 1939’s What’s New? while tenor saxist Otis Sandsjö and bassist Petter Eldh run ghostly, hollow-toned dissonances and rugged bass countermelodies around her. Then, without her partners dropping a rhythmic stitch, she segues into a carefree glide over Tony Williams’s dirgily trippy 1971 song There Comes a Time.

Lucia Cadotsch: Speak Low II album cover
Lucia Cadotsch: Speak Low II album cover

It’s the standout of a rich collection. Cadotsch wistfully exhales the title track, a Duke Ellington original, against Sandsjö’s prodding, arrhythmic single tenor note. Johnny Mathis’s Wild Is the Wind acquires a confessional intimacy thanks to Sandsjö’s skill for producing ghostly chordal sounds from what Adolphe Sax designed as a single-note instrument; Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair drifts out of churchy organ chords (Kit Downes on Hammond is a quietly crucial guest presence) but soon finds the powerful Eldh thundering like a reborn Charlie Haden.

Speak Low II foregrounds Cadotsch’s crystal-clear lyricism more than its predecessor without ever cramping the freedoms of her classy improvising partners. She brings a graceful accessibility to a personal and ingeniously offbeat setup.

Also out this month


Benin-born Lionel Loueke pays tribute to his 80-year-old mentor Herbie Hancock on HH (Edition Records). Set to solo guitar, this collection of Hancock classics, including Watermelon Man and Canteloupe Island, is reimagined in murmured vocals, West African and Latin grooves, and a folksy funk take on Actual Proof. Singer Elina Duni and guitarist Rob Luft debut on ECM with Lost Ships, alongside flugelhornist Matthieu Michel and pianist/percussionist Fred Thomas, segueing themes of migration into Mediterranean folk traditions, chanson, and even an ethereal, gleaming account of Frank Sinatra’s I’m a Fool to Want You. And Australian trio Trichotomy’s fine pianist and composer Sean Foran releases the dreamily melodic Haven (Earshift Music) with ambient/minimalist vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher, saxophonist Rafael Karlen, and acclaimed jazz singer Kristin Berardi.

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