I am prejudiced. I am.
I looked at the presentation of Melody Gardot in the festival program. I looked at the picture, noted that she looks sad; and then I read the description:
Melody Gardot må fortsatt bruke stokk og solbriller etter at hun 19 år gammel ble kjørt ned av en SUV mens hun var på sykkeltur. Hun ble liggende på sjukehus i mer enn ett år, med flere brudd i bekkenpartiet, hjerneskade med hukommelsestap og overfølsomhet for lys og lyd. Som alternativ til de mange smertestillende medisiner legene forordnet, forsøkte Gardot musikkterapi. "Jeg var oppbrakt og frustrert, fordi jeg ble veldig sjuk av de store dosene medisiner de ga meg. Jeg bestemte meg for å heller føle meg sunn og ha vondt enn være sjuk og ikke ha vondt" forteller hun. Legen hennes anbefalte å engasjere seg i noe hun likte og som kunne gi henne noe, og hun valgte å bruke musikk som terapi. Musikk påvirker generelt organismen på cellenivå, og kan dessuten bidra til å fremme kognitive funksjoner gjennom sin innflytelse på nevrale nettverk i hjernen. Fire år senere hadde Gardot utgitt et kritikerrost album på Verve Records og turnert verden rundt med stor suksess. I år kommer hennes andre for Verve "My one and only Thrill". Hun er fortsatt handicappet etter ulykken, men girer seg opp til å gjennomføre konserter og turneer og klare hverdagen. Det er en tøff ung dame Moldejazz nå presenterer for et norsk publikum. Musikalsk befinner Gardot seg i et landskap med referanser til Norah Jones og Silje Nergaard, en tilbakelent, melodisk blanding av jazz og populærmusikk.
Seeing as I am writing this in English, allow me to translate:
Melody Gardot still has to use a cane and sunglasses since she, at 19, was hit by a SUV while bicycling. She lay in hospital for more than a year, with several fractures to her pelvis, brain damage with amnesia and oversensitivity to light and sounds. As an alternative to the many painkillers the doctors prescribed, Gardot tried musical therapy. "I was upset and frustrated, because I got sick from the large doses of medicines they gave me. I decided I would rather feel healthy and be in pain than be sick and not be in pain" she says. Her doctor recommended music as therapy. Music affects the organism in general on a cellular level, and can also contribute to improve cognitive functions through its influence on the neural pathways of the brain. Four years later, Gardot had published an album at Verve Records to critical acclaim, and toured the world with great success. This year her second [album] for Verve arrives, "My one and only Thrill". She is still handicapped after the accident, but she motivates herself for concerts and tours and everyday life. It is a tough young lady that Moldejazz now presents to a Norwegian audience. Musically she is situated in a landscape with references to Norah Jones and Silje Nergaard, a laidback, melodic mix of jazz and pop music which will appeal to many.
Right, I thought. Here is another of those depressive, sad soft jazz people who are boring to listen to and therefore need to be justified by reference to the pain and horror of accident and injury.
Like I said. I am prejudiced.
Having decided what kind of music this was, my course was clear: I was going tot he Cecil Taylor concert. And today it seems like most of the music journalists thought exactly the same thing. Neither Romsdals Budstikke, Dagbladet or Fire Flate mention the concert at all. Calcuttagutta to the rescue!
Thankfully I have a visitor who has never been exposed to jazz before, and I realised that starting with Cecil Taylor might break her brain and put her off forever. And so we went to Melody Gardot's concert. And the concert was amazing. Bloody brilliant. Yes, it was soft, or "sobert" as Magne Geir Skrede allegedly described it. It is a good word. It was sober. Certainly not boring. The reference to the accident is not an attempt at an excuse; it is background information. That is all.
She was very good at communicating with the audience, or, as Mary put it today in the park, "She established a rapport with the audience". Her voice was pleasant even while talking, and when she sang it was clear as a bell. And when she impersonated her grandmother Marlene Dietrch style, it was most definitely a hit.
The songs were simple, but it fit. They were cute.
You could connect with the songs. Emotional connection, something. [There was an emotional connection somehow. The music resonated.]
They also handled really well the trouble with the sound. I don't want you to quote me!
What Silje is referring to was occasional loudspeaker disturbance. Gardot referred to them as a "specter", suggesting that specters might be attracted to spectacles. And then, like magic, all the weird sounds disappeared.
But yes. The music. It seems to be very popular to compare her to Norah Jones. And I can see the resemblance, but this is still different. It is less serious. More infused with fun and games. My original fear that it would all be gloomy and depressing was so off you can't even see it because the curvature of the Earth hides it from sight. The worry lingered for the first two songs, both of which had religious tendencies, pleasant though they were to listen to. And then it dissipated completely. Her version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow", which followed the impersonation of her grandmother, and which really did not resemble "Somewhere over the Rainbow" at all (but in a good way) is an example.
Most versions of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" are very easily identifiable. There was something about the rhythm, the speed. I don't know how to put it into words. It was different, and I liked it.
Mary assures us she would have liked it if she liked songs that were different from the first time she heard them. This is high praise.
It is slightly misleading to put so much emphasis on a cover version, though. Her other songs were quite exquisite. Calcuttaguttas panel especially liked the French "Les Etoiles" and "If the Stars were Mine", or "the stars in a jar"-song, as Silje called it.
All in all, it was a memorable concert, and it is a little sad that Bjørnsonhuset was only half full. There are 100 000 people in town. They cannot all have been to see Cecil Taylor or Ambrose Akinmusire. Although I know Jørgen said this would be the most difficult day all week for choosing.
aided and abetted by Silje and Mary.