It's often difficult to write about jazz. Thoughtful and expressive by nature, jazz is both a cultural cornerstone and an academic field of study, and a writer who doesn't know their terminology or history will soon be exposed. Unsurprisingly, most music writers prefer to stay away from this genre.
Luckily, I've found Australian singer Connie Lansberg's new album "Tsera's Gift", a beguiling collection of seven originals and three standards that anyone, even those with a passing interest in jazz, can enjoy.
This accessibility comes from Connie's up-close-and-personal vocals, relatable songs of love and hope, and the top-class musicianship on display. A collaboration with virtuoso Mark Fitzgibbon and a host of Australia's finest jazz musicians, this stunning collection is full of intimate moments that tickle pink and wrap the listener in a warm blanket of mood and emotion.
Lansberg, from Melbourne, is not only a jazz musician but also an author. Her way with words is instantly recognizable in these songs ("I have to watch the garden grow / Make angels in the virgin snow") though it's the way Lansberg's sultry voice delivers these words that is so seductive. The musicianship, singing, and compositions are bolstered by a clean and well-mixed sound throughout the album. This collection is a suitable companion to private Friday nights on the sofa, social Saturday dinner parties, and calm Sunday mornings.
The opening track, "Better Things", is a romantic song of longing, self-preservation, and the healing powers of nature. "Deep Dark Down & Blue" sees twinkling ivory keys, smooth bass, and measured drums create a canvas for Lansberg to sing about the beauty of being a deep soul; "Please don't sing with me if you are young and free and you can hear the notes in other than a minor key". In a world full of toxic positivity, where happiness and instagramable moments are of the highest virtue, Connie reminds us that the deep dark blue of an ocean can hold more significance than the easy brightness of a summer's sky.
"Still" is a soothing and playful number that gives rise to some of the album's cleverest lyrics "My emergence from delusion is an emergency of some urgency."
"Lonely Passion" is one for the lonely hearts club, and Lansberg perfectly sums up the feelings that come when a romantic partner is nowhere to be found; "I know what being alone is and living without love. My memories are burning low, and their warmth is not enough". As someone who has been single for almost three years, this one hit home for me. However, Lansberg doesn't get bogged down by loneliness, and she inspires the listener to face their solitude head-on, turning it into something subtly beautiful and accurate to the experience of the human condition.
"Secret Garden" is a tantalizing number that speaks of the difficulty of being selective when temptations run so high. "You want me so bad it's like committing a sin". Put this on with a date, pour a glass of wine, and things will likely get steamy.
"Tsera's Gift" is a fine collection of songs. It's hard to find fault with it, and the album cover is perhaps the only misguided decision here. There could be more room for experimentation and adding something new to the equation, but professionalism oozes from these recordings. Meticulous piano, sophisticated drums, and earthy bass give the recordings their stylish edge. Lansberg is a unique writer who can compose effortlessly personable songs. However, it is her voice that drives this record. Solid and steady throughout, she never hits a bum note.