In the spirit of contemporary pop/jazz greats like Madeline Peyroux, Cassandra Wilson and Norah Jones—with more than a passing wink to the effortless genius of Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald--Brighton, England based singer/songwriter Magdalena Reising is pleased to invite listeners into the magical world of her Blue Café.
The music industry loves to create strict genres so that it can pigeonhole artists, but as the Glasgow born multi-talented singer proves, independent music making is all about breaking molds and creating exhilarating new hybrids. A major label executive might go crazy trying to make sense of the diverse list of influences that Reising lists on her myspace page; they might know what to do with Norah, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone and even Edith Piaf, but throw in Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen in the mix and they might freak out. Fortunately, there are enough listeners who have a heart for rich acoustic singer-songwriters and stylish jazz singers to give Reising a chance to break through on a major scale with this self-released collection.
Her rich, deep voice accompanied only by gentle piano, the opening bars of “Follow My Heart” show us the powerful range of emotions she can express unadorned. Then the song eases into a colorful and bluesy, brass enhanced jazz quartet setting and there’s no turning back from following her “where my heart is bound.” The coolest thing about the shuffling, acoustic guitar driven “Winter Love” is that it’s picture perfect Starbucks music—smoky jazz on one hand with its Ian Price tenor solo, Jewel-like acoustic pop the rest of the time. This dual vibe is enhanced by a subtle accordion harmony, no doubt a wink to Reising’s European roots (both of her parents are Polish). “Moving On” is a more intimate track that starts with just the voice and evolves into a soft-lit jazz trio ballad. “Wishbone Ash” keeps that jazzy flavor going with a slightly more lilting and romantic, rhythmically exotic flow.
The image-laden title track brings back the tres-romantic accordion touch that balances the subtle acoustic guitar line. She takes a breathy approach here, then taps into a deeper vocal register on the edgier acoustic blues of “Misty River.” One of the most interesting aspects of the Blue Café experience is that you never know what’s coming next—so just as we’re seeing her spirited blues energy, she takes us back down to the gentler, moodier jazz flavors of “In Love” and then dazzles with some playful vocal textures on the rhythmic acoustic pop tune “He Knows.” “Midnight Reflections” mixes a little bit of everything--pop, blues vocal textures, acoustic plucking and jazz bass. Despite all the fascinating production and Jo Whiteman’s irresistibly plucky double bass, you won’t forget the intense urging of Reising’s infectious hook: “Our loves’ got to grow.” She wraps this glorious set with the rootsy and acoustic, front porch vocal-acoustic guitar duet “Since You’ve Been Gone,” a rich testament to moving on from dark sadness to a place where “the stars, they shine on me.”
The bookings on Reising’s myspace page (www.myspace.com/magdalenareising) show only dates in Brighton, but the kind of subtle magical power happening at the Blue Café won’t be held across the Pond for long. The similarly charming and talented Corinne Bailey Rae became a Grammy nominated sensation and a major presence on the U.S. pop and jazz charts, and there’s no reason why Reising couldn’t follow suit with enough Stateside interest and promotion. This album is the reason why jazz and pop fans looking for the next big thing need to focus on the great indie artists out there rather than just what the major labels keep throwing our way.