April 1998

Lisa Ekdahl - When Did You Leave Heaven?
RCA Victor 74321-43175 2
Released: 1997

by Jay Piriz

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]OK, listen up! Do you like Patricia Barber? How about Rickie Lee Jones? How about Diana Krall? How about Holly Cole? Have I got your attention yet? I hope so because this young lady is unbelievable. This beautiful, 27-year-old Scandinavian jazz singers’ voice sounds like that of a naive little girl at times. Her voice is delicate, complex, sultry, but most of all, infectious. Lisa Ekdahl’s voice is indeed unusual, but very delightful and engaging on this, her American debut CD.

Backing up Lisa on this recording is the excellent Peter Nordahl trio: a classic piano, drumkit, and bass that are tight and refined. Throughout the CD there are solos by the individual musicians as well as guest saxophone cameos that add to the overall enjoyment of the recording. The music backing up Ekdahl’s beautiful, unique, personal and sensitive voice is sensational.

Years ago when he was with Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn wrote a beautiful, nostalgic classic titled "Lush Life." Lisa sings this song on this CD. Rickie Lee Jones also does a hypnotic live rendition of the song on her release titled Girl at Her Volcano. Both versions are outstanding. Which is best? I’m still debating—Lisa Ekdahl’s version is that good. The second track on this CD, "But Not For Me," is seductively interpreted by Ekdahl. The piano and bass accompaniment are also first class. I could easily go on ad infinitum about every track on this release. There are no weaknesses here.

As to the quality of the recording itself, I must begin by noting that the entire CD was recorded and engineered in Stockholm, Sweden. There is a natural warmness to the sound, and a realness to the position and relative size of the instruments that is seldom heard on domestic recordings. The piano, for example, is an instrument that on most recordings takes on a larger-than-life quality. Not here. Nordahl’s piano is correctly located on the left side of the stage, on a plane just behind Ekdahl. It does not overbear. This recording welcomes a little extra volume. It is very clean.

Lisa Ekdahl has been tearing up the European jazz scene. Her arrival on our shores was long overdue. If you enjoy rock-solid jazz led by a beautiful female voice, don’t hesitate for a moment about picking up Lisa Ekdahl’s When Did You Leave Heaven. I wonder when she did? Her voice is angelic.