Jeremy Siskind‘s Finger-Songwriter is a kaleidoscope. A small object with a tiny surface and mirrors to make it all seem much bigger than it really is. And yet, from this, fireworks, which fascinate and enchant, conjured up from fragments of light and reflections.
This is an album performed to small crowds in tiny rooms, an eminent intimacy from music unafraid to sit close and sing. The music is warm and looks like moonlight. When the emotion rises, it’s a slow burn, developing patiently and evocatively. When the emotion settles, it’s a sly bounce, spryly tap dancing around sadness ever-present.
Your album personnel: Jeremy Siskind (piano), Nancy Harms (vocals), and Lucas Pino (woodwinds).
This album moves deliberately and everything falls into its right place. The trio of Siskind, Harms and Pino reflect their sound off one another, making it into something quite spectacular and encompassing, though contained within very few notes.
On “Vanished Music, Twilit Water,” Siskind’s piano gurgles happily along as Pino’s clarinet flutters just above. Vocals soft and blossoming, Harms makes everything all right.
“What Is That Feeling?” is a line of bar stools, all empty but for one, a person drooped over an empty rocks glass, caught between dwindling alcoholic euphoria and burgeoning last call melancholy. This is a song that Tom Waits regrets not coming up with first.
On the torch song “A Single Moment,” Harms sings, “Someday we will burn, fiery and free,” with smoldering heartache and passion, a piano lilting and light, and woodwinds like glowing embers. No song better exemplifies this album.
A cynical boisterousness accompanies the gloomy outlook of “The Inevitable Letdown,” as the trio gets a head full of steam in the face of pessimism. Harms’s invitation to “pour yourself a drink” is only as inoculation to the unavoidable truth that “it’s all you got.”
“Mirrors I” is an interlude, a story of a man and a dream, but the heartbreaking lift in Harms’s voice eradicates context with its sheer loveliness.
On “More Mist Than Moon,” Siskind’s piano sometimes prowls, sometimes wanders directionless. Pino’s clarinet cuts through the song like a stiff breeze, portending nuthin’ good, yet with a sharp elegance that belies its inauspicious appearance.
These are the types of stories Siskind’s trio writes on Finger-Songwriter. It is the kind of album that invites repeat listens, the story sounding a bit different each time, as all good stories should.
Siskind’s inspiration for this music appears two-fold. First is his love of the chamber jazz of Norma Winstone, the quiet and intimate settings she brings to a recording. The other inspiration is from Siskind’s love of literature. Each track is dedicated to a particular author, from whom each album song derived some of its words and phrasings from. Through this and his own creative inspiration, Siskind offers up a remarkable recording.
I’ll be posting my Best of 2012 (thus far) list shortly, and this album will be in the top five.
Released on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records.
Jazz from NYC.
Here’s a link to Siskind’s blog, which has some neat entries (above, I link to his main site).
Download a free album track from AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artists.