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04 September 2020
At the beginning of the 2000s, Norwegian singer Solveig Slettahjell and her Slow Motion Quintet made the European jazz scene really sit up and take notice. Her concept, as Canadian critic John Kelman has written, was to take songs from the American songbook and to “slow them down. Way down. [...] She proved that slow, powerful and dramatic need not be mutually exclusive terms.” “Come In From The Rain” now demonstrates how much those virtues have strengthened and deepened in the intervening years.
That astonishing ability to concentrate on the essentials of a song – and to express much more with nuances and details than would be possible with volume or bombast – are still Slettahjell trademarks. Together with her companions, Slettahjell captivates the listener from the outset of the opening title track ”Come In From The Rain”. They literally pull us out of the rain into their musical cosmos, introduced by Andreas Ulvo’s wonderful piano touch, the minimalist drum rhythms from Pål Hausken and the grounding yet playful bass of Trygve Waldemar Fiske.
Slettahjell prepares her projects thoroughly and gives them the time they need to mature. “The idea of putting together a new band and of recording this album have been in the making for at least the last three years,” she says. And the technical processes of recording are a source of pride: “We recorded this album live to tape. Working in this old fashioned way was such a thrill and gives weight to the interplay and instant musicmaking aspect of the recording and of our quartet.”
The vibe right through this album is well-judged, the storytelling is compelling. There are timeless old tales like Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell For You” or Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean”, stories to be rediscovered afresh like “I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City”, and more recent ones like “Johnsburg, Illinois” by Tom Waits. And there are new ones like “So I Borrow Your Smile”, her own composition. These songs may come from folk or jazz or pop, yet Slettahjell and her highly accomplished musicians always make them individual, tasteful and authentic. And the subtle way she bends notes, always bringing them into perfectly true-pitched final focus is nothing short of miraculous. Every time.