Just two decades ago "Albanian Jazz" would have sounded like a bad joke - the poorest European country after almost half a century of a Communist/Maoist regime wasn't exactly jazz heaven for sure. Things started to change (slowly) in the 90s and Elina Duni is one of the very first Albanian artists playing and becoming well-known around Europe.
Elina was born in Tirana,under still Communist Albania in 1981, but in 1992 she left the country with her family for Switzerland. Between 2004 and 2008 she studied singing and composition in the jazz department at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern. At that time she formed her quartet - with three young Swiss jazz musicians.
Lume Lume ("World World") is their second release (on German Meta label). The main attraction to this work is the unusual combination of a cool, almost chamber jazz trio and a Balkan folk vocalist who doesn't even try to sing jazzy! On the other hand, the other three musicians, differ from the usual world fusion band and don't even try to use any folklore elements in their music. As a result, this recording is music in which the vocalist sings almost authentic folklore (Balkan and Greek)supported by chamber jazz acoustic trio, and it works!
Don't expect complex musicianship or virtuosity here, but after years of Balkan folk-based music fashion around Europe (from Serbian turbo-folk and Goran Bregovic to countless Balkan gypsy brass orchestras and Balkan-techno parties),this release is fresh air. No wonder this quartet played in a lot of jazz fests around France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and SE Europe and received good press everywhere.
Possibly it's significant that after eleven folk songs the album closes with Nick Drake's "Riverman". Elina can sing the jazz when she wants...