Izabella Effenberg comes from Poland. She lives in Germany. The title of her very first album is in Spanish. A few lyrics are in English and Hebrew. Which leads to the conclusion that a strong multi-cultural scent perfumes her life and her musical world. The lady plays vibraphone, an instrument that was brought to the fore in jazz by Lionel Hampton, and in rock by Ruth Underwood. The plain fact that Izabella is the first Polish woman to make a professional use of the instrument reminds us how rare it is in music in general. On 'Cuéntame', the Polish vibraphonist is backed by a team of skilled German musicians, and this first effort is the opportunity for her to highlight her talent not only as an interpreter, but also as a composer.
The musical world unfolds in a quite versatile way actually In fact, joyfulness (embodied by sunny and rhythmic numbers) alternates with melancholy (when the brooding incantations of Israeli vocalist Efrat Alony are set to a reflective accompaniment). Where the "Fuga" and "Nocturne 2" present the flamboyance of pieces of Baroque era, especially in the solemn notes escaping from vibraphone and saxophone, it's rather a wind of humour that blows on the other "happy" tunes. First, with "El Vaive Del Verdes" and "Raton Chacha", drums gallop down a sloppy road, while the two saxophones play amused notes without paying much attention to each other (they tried to discipline themselves on the groovy opening track, but it didn't last long!). Then, when the closing piece "III. Teil Three Pictures" comes, drums are all excited, like a dog seeing his master back home after a long day spent alone. On the other hand, and quite conversely, a haunting atmosphere envelops "Crescent Moon" and "Cuéntame", when the slow and mournful wind instruments (clarinet and saxophone respectively) move like in a funeral march, while the plaintive voices share their fears and pains. On "Like A Child", it's the drumming that evokes the funeral march, Izabella contributing this time also to the sad ambiance by rubbing a bow on the pads of her vibraphone. All along the album, the Polish musician stays moderate in her use of vibraphone, far from the exoticism of Dave Samuels, yet close to the syncopation of Bobby Hutcherson. Another rarely heard instrument, the chromatic harp, lends its delicate and pondering touches to the elegant musical canvas. It sounds in turn like an introspective spanish guitar ("Like A Child") and a shining kora ("El Vaive Del Verdes").
All in all, 'Cuéntame' is a pleasant collection of jazz-oriented pieces, where colours are in turn vivid and faded, yet always brilliantly laid out on the pictures. Let's hope that it's the beginning of a great career for the very first female vibraphonist coming out of Poland.
This review is also available on Prog Sphere webpage: http://www.prog-sphere.com/reviews/izabella-effenberg-cuentame/