A singer, alone, at a piano is not an unusual sight. But when that singer is Solveig Slettahjell, the rarity of the moment becomes vivid, and the expectation of what this moment could deliver is amplified. And, on a September night in 2017, at Nasjonal Jazzscene in Victoria, Oslo, Solveig gave such a performance. "Magical moments guaranteed" ran the tagline, and – for once - it was not advertising hyperbole. Guests joined for some songs: Pål Hausken provided percussive accompaniment on some tracks, while the choir Safari appeared to provide a whole new ambience to proceedings. However, their sparing use adds colour and drama at just the right moments, never resorting to mere chorus build-up and repetition.
Featuring a set made of standards, original material, and settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, Solveig's performance is a masterful blend of emotional honesty and technical brilliance. Her delivery of classics by the likes of Gershwin, or more recent creations by Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen is bold and forthright, and her interpretations retain the spirits of the originals while marking them clearly with her own stylistic thumbprint. Her Emily Dickinson interpretations are much more than mere exercises – they are charged with the energy of the original poetry, and often viewed through unexpected lenses, such as on "Visit" (where Solveig leaves the piano and is accompanied by Pål Hausken) which becomes a blues-washed chaingang song; "Outlet" again takes a view of the lyrics through a blues filter; and "A Day" presents an arrangement that Tom Waits at his Asylum Years best would be proud of.
This Solveig's second release through Jazzland Recordings, the previous being "Tarpan Seasons" (2009), a studio album that introduced a number of the tracks in this live recordings, perhaps most notably her interpretations of Emily Dickinson's "A Day" and "Visit".