Viktoria Tolstoy: You Can't Go Home Again
You Can't Go Home Again
Viktoria Tolstoy (vocals)
My Russian Soul (ACT 9721)
Johan Granström (bass), Rasmus Kihlberg (drums, percussion).
Composed by Don Sebesky, adapted from Sergei Rachmaninoff, with lyrics by Anna Alerstedt.
Recorded: Göteborg, Sweden, April, 2008
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
The combination of a jazz singer named Tolstoy with songs drawn from Russian classical music might seem like a project driven by a clever marketing angle rather than an artistic vision. But I am happy to report that Viktoria Tolstoy delivers a first-rate jazz performance on My Russian Soul. Cynical fans may wonder about Tolstoy's fickle national allegiances, given her previous CD My Swedish Heart, but I find these Slavic tributes cogent and convincing. Tolstoy's singing is emotionally grounded and sweetly unaffected, whether she is taking on Tchaikovsky or, as in this instance, Rachmaninoff spiced with Don Sebesky. It's hard to hear this song and not be reminded of Chet Baker's defining statement of it, yet Tolstoy finds her own space within the melody. But even without the fine vocal, this track would be worth checking out for the contribution of Nils Landgren, who deserves to be far better known outside of his native Scandinavia. If you've only heard Landgren as a 'bone funkmeister (a role he fills to perfection)—or haven't heard him at all—check out his ballad work in this setting.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia