Silje Nergaard, Houses Review
by Ferell Aubre
Norwegian singer Silje Nergaard is releasing Houses via Masterworks/Sony Music. The album is fourteen songs that are personal as they are varied and significant. Expanding the endeavor is guest appearances by Kurt Elling, Vince Mendoza, Bugge Wesseltoft, Toninho Horta, and Adam Baldych. For more than twenty-five years, Nergaard has been a leading jazz vocalist in her native Norway, with fifteen albums also gaining her an international reputation as one of the world’s most celebrated singer-songwriters. Houses is a genuine high-carat release filled with music and lyrics themed around a concept album exploring the ideas of hopes, dreams, love, and a longing for the future. The lyrics are deeply affecting as they stir the emotions while invariably communicating a note of genuine optimism.
“His House” is a gentle jazz-folk selection that contains a beautiful set of lyrics and pure singing by Nergaard. Nergaard had the idea of including several orchestrations throughout the album. Both the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Budapest Art Orchestra were invited to perform arrangements by Vince Mendoza and Gaute Storaas under their respective arrangers. The lyrics were written by Mike McGurk, with Nergaard writing the music. Adam Baldych lends his beautiful violin sound to the track. Nergaard also layers stunning backing vocals that add texture and fullness, building to form a full choir of angelic harmonies. Between the backing vocals, harp, and strings, “His House” is a robust opening selection and a preview of the great music to come.
“A Crying Shame” features vocalist Kurt Elling and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra with an arrangement by Vince Mendoza. Nergaard was inspired to write about loneliness and how the hours inside a house appear to drag on endlessly. She explains, “My hope is that we can learn and be thankful for what we’ve got and learn to be more aware of one another. Our time on earth is so precious.” The melody displays both vocalist abilities and passion. Nergaard says, “technically speaking, it demands a wide-ranging vocal tessitura and requires both depth and maturity in terms of its expression. Kurt, with whom I once performed a duet, has a unique combination of the gifts that are needed here – he’s an exceptional singer and artist who, over a period of many years, has demonstrated his preeminent position in this field. And it was fantastic that at this very time he was also receiving another Grammy in the United States.” The gentle flow of the song gives Nergaard’s vocals room to soar as Elling’s earthy-tone buzzes in response.
Nergaard brings us a powerful exploration of a themed album around Houses. The Nordic jazz stylings give life to the true stories, stories in which she takes the most varied interest in houses, their surroundings, and the relationships that unfold within them. Nergaard continues to amaze with her creative projects. These true stories provide a fun way to discover and explore Nergaard’s Houses through a song master’s nicely done musical depiction.