sun 14/08/2022

Heidi Vogel, Pizza Express Jazz Club | reviews, news & interviews

Heidi Vogel, Pizza Express Jazz Club

Heidi Vogel, Pizza Express Jazz Club

Cinematic Orchestra vocalist seduces the senses in Brazilian repertoire

While the physical and mechanical elements of its production are common to all, the sound of a person's voice is as individual as a fingerprint. Launching her Brazilian-themed solo album Lágrimas de um pássaro (Tears of a Bird) in the intimate surroundings of Soho's Pizza Express Jazz Club, Heidi Vogel's extraordinarily rich and complex vocal timbre proved capable of completely seducing the senses.

You sensed from the very opening bars of Tom Jobim's “Modinha” that the material, musicians and audience were in perfect harmony. A singer who is as naturally sympathetic to the Brazilian idiom as anyone, her capacity to unfurl long-lined melodies is remarkable. She manages to balance the music's introspective sensibilities and its quietly dramatic inner core to telling effect, such that she can lift the soul while simultaneously breaking your heart. As fellow singer Ian Shaw puts it, “I defy anyone not to fall into Heidi Vogel's deeply soulful, sometimes fragile but always gorgeous voice.” On songs such as Vinicius de Moraes's “Medo de amar” that fragile, light-as-air quality was very much to the fore, but it's when Vogel opened up and switched from head voice to chest voice that you really experienced the direct expression of her soul.


Recorded in recent times by both Kurt Elling (Nightmoves) and Esperanza Spalding (Chamber Music Society), I've never heard “Inútil paisagem” (“Useless Landscape”) sung with greater intensity or depth of feeling. Her singing here seemed to crystallise that singular quality of calm sorrow which is such an ineluctable stylistic trait of Brazilian music. Up-tempo songs such as “The Frog” were stuffed with ear-catching detail, with Vogel pursuing every last tricky syllable with absolute clarity and rhythmic precision. 

On Lágrimas the Cinematic Orchestra vocalist is accompanied for the most part solely by Josue Ferreira's guitar, with just the occasional thickening of the texture provided by piano, bass or cello. In addition to Ferreira, the formidable line-up which the singer had assembled for this live set included vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, pianists Ivo Neame and Austin Peralta, trumpeter Jay Phelps and Gilad Atzmon doubling on sax and clarinet. The musical understanding between Ferreira and Neame (who took on the lion's share of piano duties) was key – the music can soon start to sound incredibly cluttered if piano and guitar aren't in complete harmonic agreement – and it was no surprise to see the two sat in close proximity. Bassist Davide Mantovani, drummer Shane Forbes and percussionist Adriano Adewale ensured that the rhythms remained buoyant and pleasingly transparent.

Watkiss, who guests on two of the album's songs (Joe Henderson's “Black Narcissus” and Ivan Lins' “Love Dance”), proved just about the ideal duet partner for Vogel, sharing both a sense of improvisational freedom and an ability to construct compelling, dramatic narratives irrespective of tempo. Their readings of Wayne Shorter's “Footprints” and Horace Silver's “Sister Sadie” will both linger long in the memory.

Watch Heidi Vogel performing with The Cinematic Orchestra

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