DUNÉR: Robot in Love. Sophisticated Love. Beating Pulse. Discharmed. PRITSKER-JOHNSON: Slippery Slope. PRITSKER: Funeral Blues. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. KOSTABI: Wake Up World / Sophie Dunér, voc; Gene Pritsker, gtr; unidentified perc / available as a download album for $4 HERE
This strange little album, only a half-hour in duration, was recorded in 2018 but only recently came to my attention. It features the world’s greatest female jazz singer, Sophie Dunér, and imaginative guitarist Gene Pritsker in a program of hyper-techno-jazz that you simply have to hear to believe.
As much as I’ve liked Dunér’s singing in the past, I always get a rush of adrenaline every time I hear her again. It’s not just that she swings—and she does—so much as that her voice has a stunning range of both her vocal registers and range of volume. She can drop down to a surprising chest register or fly up into her high range with impunity. On the second piece in this album, Slippery Slope, she double-tracks herself to provide a ground bass of harmony to her own top line, occasionally producing harmony at unexpected moments.
And, as it turns out, Pritsker is exactly the right guitarist for her. He plays really interesting chords and lines, matching her moods perfectly. In Sophisticated Love, the third track, he swings mightily as Dunér does the same. If any track from this album should get any air play, which somehow I doubt (even jazz radio tends to play it safe), this is the one that should be promoted. In addition to Dunér’s utterly stunning vocal, flying up into her top range with impunity, Pritsker plays one of the most exciting and imaginative guitar solos I’ve heard in many a year.
Surprisingly, both artists slip into ballad mode on Pritsker’s original Funeral Blues, but don’t think you’re going to be lulled to sleep. Sophie simply isn’t going to let that happen; her voice is just too explosive, even when alternating the loud moments with some surprising soft singing, for that to happen. Pritsker’s solo, low-key but imaginative and emotion-charged, is also a gem.
This interaction between singer and guitarist continues in Beating Pulse, which just may be the wildest track on the album. Both artists go all-out in emotion and imagination, and I’m still not sure which of them came out on top, although Pritsker only plays little fills on this one and not a full solo chorus. Dunér’s bitonal scatting in the out-chorus is thrilling. Wake Up World, written by pianist Mark Kostabi, is the closest thing to a through-composed song with a recognizable melody to match its lyrics. Dunér pulls back on her usual wild style here until the improvised scat chorus; then, it’s no holds barred. Pritsker also plays a nifty solo on this one.
In addition to the unidentified percussion, there’s also an unidentified bass clarinet and synthesizer on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, which has a sort of Dirty Dozen Brass Band beat. The digital album wraps up with Dunér’s Discharmed, which has a sort of rolling march beat. Both singer and guitarist have a ball on this one, almost as if they were trying to outdo one another. Sophie does some atonal whistling at the end.
If you’re into Dunér, Pritsker, or jazz of this genre in general, this is not an album to be missed. It’ll wake you up and put some pep in your step, that I guarantee!
—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
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