ESTER WIESNEROVA — Blue Journal (review)

ESTER WIESNEROVA — Blue Journal album cover Album · 2022 · Vocal Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
One of the first things that will hit you about Ester Wiesnerova’s debut CD is what an elaborate package it comes in. You get this thick soft covered book full of lyrics, photos and even empty pages in case you want to add to the introspective nature of Ester’s thoughts, and of course a CD folded into the back cover. Such an elaborate production could seem pretentious if the music didn’t carry the same amount of care and careful presentation as the package itself, but Ester comes through with some remarkable songs that obviously carry the same ornate and thoughtful compositions as the package that it comes in. These are very personal and introspective songs played by a well rehearsed band that seems to be very much in tune with Ester’s every thought and emotion. No, this isn’t veteran jazz cats blowing through some chord charts, but more like a modern art pop band with members who have been working and growing together for a while.

One of the first things that will hit you about the music on “Blue Journal” is what a colorful and unique lineup. Along with Ester’s soaring vocals, you also get Charles Overton on harp (stringed harp, like the ones the angels play, not harmonica), Kan Yanabe on hand drums and percussion, Michal Selep on stand up bass and Sam Knight on saxophones and possibly un-credited clarinet. The tone colors they create are carefully constructed so that each tune has its own personal flavor. Sometimes only one or two musicians are playing at a time, which adds more to the variety. Also, occasionally Knight’s woodwinds are double tracked to create a chamber woodwind ensemble.

Wiesnerova’s melodies avoid clichés and present small surprises in a manner that may remind some of Joni Mitchell, or some of Esperanza Spaulding’s latest work. Ester sites Joni, along with Maria Schneider and Lusiana Souza as major influences. Song topics range from a man and woman who find their budding attraction to each other separated by Trump’s Mexican border wall, to the numbing effect of social media, plus plenty of musings by an artist who is not afraid to challenge herself even if it means failure at times. Ester is originally from Slovakia but has since traveled the world and lived in many places, leading her to ask herself, “Who are You Now”.
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