by Steve Koenig
Tolstoy, delightfully referred to in the press release as "The Swede with
Russian Ancestors," here delivers a set of songs culled from Russian melodies
by Tchaikowsky, Rachmaninoff, as well as traditional Russian songs, delivered
cabaret/jazz style. Tolstoy sings so easily, so naturally, and with no detectable
accent, but with a soft yet slightly husky timbre to her voice. In tone, but
not at all in phrasing save for a tiny tremelo at the end of some long-held
notes, the voice makes me think of a Carole Bayer Sager.
support varies from jazz combo to neo-Broadway, courtesy of an acoustic string
ensemble, and the accordion adds a continental feel to many tracks. The varied
lyrics by Anna Alerstedt make for a excellent change from the standard standards
and from the bad lyrics so many otherwise-good vocalists choose.
The strongest track,
and the one to sample to see if this is for you, is "No News," a haunting
lyric with Joakim Milder's sax adding the plaintive flavor one would find in
Joni Mitchell's mature albums. Another winner is "You Can Go Home Again,"
based on Rachmaninoff with an arrangement by Don Sebesky. The one weak track
is "Stranger In Paradise," the Borodin-derived song from Kismet, where
she and the arrangement could be any jazz-lite singer found on any jazz-lite