The story of how Grete Skarpeid released her debut album "My Songs" at the age of 59 is almost like a Cinderella story. She and the Cuban jazz pianist Arúan Ortiz met after a concert he had played in Voss Jazz Club in Gamlekinoen. He caught sight of Skarpeid, sat down with her and wanted to talk. He invited for wine. And they talked about music. When she was about to leave, he asked:
- Do you sing?
Then he heard some recordings she had on her smartphone with songs she had made. Thus it was done. Ortiz fell for this right away, and invited her over to New York to record her first album.
Now the second album is ready, and Skarpeid goes a good step further in the first album, which received good reviews among others in Germany. She has composed all the songs and lyrics herself, except for the lyrics to the opening song "Singing Again", which is an English translation of a poem by Olav H. Hauge. She has also found space for "My Favorite Things", from "Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Skarpeid writes texts about those she experiences. It can be anything from the refugee issue in the song "Cats in Crete", to the close interpersonal relationships in "Stille, stille, stille", which is the only song on the album with Norwegian lyrics.
Norway and Cuba
The melodies of Skarpeid are often rooted in musical landscapes not far from Norwegian folk music. Arúan Ortiz has arranged the songs and produced the album. When the Norwegian tone landscape meets the Cuban, then really interesting and original things happen.
There are musicians in the international star group who play on the album alongside Ortiz on piano: Bassist Cameron Brown has played with most major jazz musicians in the US for the past 40 years, he was a bassist in the legendary Don Pullen / George Adams Quartet. Drummer Gerald Cleaver has played with Miroslav Vitous and Tomasz Stańko to name a few, while Oslo-based Rob Waring on vibraphone / percussion has played with countless Norwegian and foreign jazz stars.
Grete Skarpeid has no big and powerful voice. It does not matter, because she has a convincing communication ability which, in a low-key but at the same time intense way, makes the listener believe in what she is singing about. One might think that Skarpeid would drown a little in the star team she has with her, but that does not happen.
Ortiz's sparkling, original and balanced arrangement, means that Skarpeid's songs and lyrics can stand out and shine as they should. She writes good and interesting melodies that play with both rhythm and tonality. In Ortiz's events and with these musicians, the result is a holistic and different jazz album. The solo performances by the musicians are absolutely brilliant. Here it is only for the jazz festivals to turn around and book!