Anna Mjöll goes on the VocalStandards Watch List…

It’s cool how the connections in this business work… a new VS Watch List addition himself, Luca Ellis sent me an invite to an upcoming Anna Mjöll gig at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato (July 14) in LA.

I can’t jet out next week to make the show but thanks to Luca’s invite I tripped across a very interesting performer that definitely deserves watching.

Daughter of an Icelandic guitar player, composer, arranger and classically trained as musician herself, Anna has been “fronting” for Julio Iglesias’ tour and jazz singing her way around the world (mostly Europe) since the late 90’s.

Mjöll has rendered a relatively small amount of recorded material (more please Anna!)… but that said, what Anna HAS published is damned impressive.

A “mini” review…

…is about all that’s possible right now. Ms. Mjöll released an LP in 2009 — Shadow Of Your Smile— that includes seven core

© Anna Mjöll

standards numbers and four Icelandic vocal jazz numbers. The Tónaljón Records release is very well produced and has Anna backed by a superb array of top notch jazz musicians.

AM’s style is quite distinctive. A slightly smoke tinged sultry jazz base with a forward breathiness element … at times Anna evokes Blossom Dearie, at other times Madeleine Peyroux, even Astrud Gilberto a bit … but in the end AM stands on her own with her distinctive smokey, jazz club tenor.

Sometimes I have trouble…

…listening to a lot of material from “breathy” singers — getting worn out by the constant exhalation. Anna definitely has a breathy intonation style … with only seven songs to listen to, it’s hard to assess the wear-and-tear aspect, but my initial listening experience just seems to illicit a desire to hear more rather than any sense of weariness.

Somewhat notorious for skipping my Icelandic language lessons 😉 I have limited appreciation for the last four tracks on the list (after listening to them for ambient appreciation I realized that three of the four are Icelandic versions of other tracks on the LP) but I do have some favorites off AM’s debut LP.

I really like the bossa nova numbers “How Insensitive” and “Agua De Beber” — perfect song selections for Anna’s vocal style — as well the haunting and beautiful jazz trio rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “The Look of Love” … the best number on the record in my opinion. Which is saying something because the title track (“Shadow of Your Smile”) is sweet and sultry goodness as well.

Rounding out the mix are standup versions of “Fever”, “C’est Si Bon” and a fun jazztastic version of “I Get a Kick Out of You”.

Anna did release a jazz holiday album  in 2010 (Christmas Jazzmaz) with ten English language jazzy holiday numbers. I skim-listened to it a bit, but with the temp hovering around 100 here in Austin, I just can’t bring myself to dig into it in the middle of summer. Jazzmaz is definitely queued up for this holiday season though.

Until the weather turns cool, we’ll have to make do with Ms. Mjöll’s very fine The Shadow of Your Smile LP. Good stuff but we need more, please Anna.

Shadow of Your Smile – Anna Mjöll

(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

1. I Get A Kick Out of You 3:22 + Nice and jazzy .
2. How Insensitive 3:41 +++ Perfect song for AM’s vocal style
3. Agua De Beber 3:49 +++ More Jobim-styled goodness
4. The Shadow of Your Smile 3:19 +++ Beautiful guitar … beautiful vocals
5. Fever 3:07 +
6. The Look of Love 4:41 +++ Mjöll’s vocal style also lends itself to Mr. Bacharach
7. C’est Si Bon 3:03 ++ Straight play but very well done
8. Saman Þú og Ég 4:01
9. Vatn að Drekka 3:49 (“Agua De Beber” Icelandic style!)
10. Minningin um Þig 3:19 (“The Shadow of Your Smile”)
11. Tilfinningalaus 3:39 (“How Insensitive”)