Stefanie Schlesinger: Reality

Dan BilawskyBy DAN BILAWSKY 

Reality is relative. For some, it’s a direct reflection of the walk of life; for others, it’s embedded in what’s heard and seen from a safe distance—music encountered in a concert hall or club, movies and television shows taken in from the couch or the theater—and the merging of art and entertainment with daily existence. This album has the benefit of immediacy for both of those groups.

Vocalist Stefanie Schlesinger’s Reality taps into true-to-life themes given voice through music written by European composers for film or television. All twelve tracks presented here appeared on screens large and/or small at one time or another, allowing those on the viewing end to see with their ears, hear with their eyes, and understand with those senses in sync. Schlesinger, with assistance from vibraphonist-arranger Wolfgang Lackerschmid and the rest of her multicultural band, crosses disciplines and moods with class and ease. She covers several languages, a variety of musical styles, and numerous sentiments without issue, ultimately allowing each song’s story to emerge in three-dimensional form.

In putting together this program, Schlesinger and Lackerschmid didn’t discriminate. They included songs with firm footing in the jazz sphere, like Michel Legrand’s „The Summer Knows“ and „Windmills Of Your Mind“; selections that carry some serious pop culture cachet, such as The Beatles‘ „Fool On The Hill“ and ABBA’s „The Winner Takes It All“; and a good number of works that rest in their birth zone, where sound meets vision. All of it works, thanks in no small part to Lackerschmid’s pen and Schlesinger’s pipes.

A passionate „Parole, Parole“ launches the album and carefully walks the tempo and stylistic line that separates bossa nova and samba. Schlesinger is at her most uninhibited here, singing with gusto before (and after) turning the spotlight over to pianist Mark Soskinand Lackerschmid. Then it’s off to Legrand’s sweeping summer song, the slow and mildly soulful title track, the swaying „Hotel Shanghai,“ and a variety of other visceral vistas. Schlesinger and company waltz over „Ganz Leise“ with a spring in their collective steps and a sparkle in sound, give pause to appreciate Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s haunting lyrics and the mutability of Legrand’s musical substance during „Windmills Of Your Mind,“ and paint a wistful wonder in the form of „Munich Butterfly.“ Even the aforementioned ABBA song carries weight in its new shape and lightly swinging gait.

While Reality has a clear through line, each song also operates on its own level. It’s an album that’s loyal to each number’s origin, the greater whole, and, most importantly, the outlook of Stefanie Schlesinger.

Track Listing: Parole, Parole; The Summer Knows; Reality; Hotel Shanghai; Com Amor, Com O Mar; Ganz Leise; With You; Hurra, Wir Leben Noch; Windmills Of Your Mind; Fool On The Hill; Munich Butterfly; The Winner Takes All.

Personnel: Stefanie Schlesinger: vocals; Wolfgang Lackerschmid: vibraphone, marimba; Mark Soskin: piano; John Goldsby: bass; Guido May: drums, percussion; Ryan Caniaux: trumpet , flugelhorn (3, 8, 9, 12).

Title: Reality | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced