Radka Toneff / Steve Dobrogosz ‘Fairytales’ SACD (Odin) 4/5

Classic albums from Norway are somewhat thin on the ground, but this beautifully packaged re-issue deserves a special mention. It was voted by no less than a collective of Norwegian musicians as the greatest jazz album ever to come out of the country and considering other distinguished names such as Karin Krog and Jan Garbarek to name but two who could easily have made the grade, that is quite a compliment, In fact, this duet album, recorded between 1979 and 1982 between vocalist Radka Toneff and pianist Steve Dobrogosz, draws on the jazz tradition in terms of some of the repertoire exploited, with jazz standards, the Great American songbook name checked, but equally contemporary pop songs of the time, and three originals for good measure. and has a pared down folk sound which combines organically with the jazz and makes this album sound like no other. A laid back ‘Nature Boy’, showcases the vulnerability of Radka’s voice and one that was influenced by her Norwegian mother and by the folk music of her Bulgarian father. Dobrogosz comes into his own on ‘My Funny Valentine’, where his piano skills are subtly deployed and his tasteful accompaniment is a joy throughout. Rounding off a trio of classic jazz interpretations is a sumptuous reading of a song that Blossom Dearie co-wrote, ‘Long Daddy, Green’. Of the three originals, ‘Before Love Went Out Of Style’, impresses the most. Carole King is evoked on another original, ‘Wasted’.

The music has now been re-mastered and is on a superior quality SACD and has never sounded better. To these ears it comes across as a hybrid of Joni Mitchell’s sparse ‘Blue’, recording, but with a strong jazz component in the improvised piano, and elements of blues, soul and rock (singer-songwriter territory at least) all fused together into a cohesive whole. An outstanding re-issue and one that begs the question of what else the small independent label Odin might have up its sleeve. Definitely worth a listen and a soothing delight to the summer season. The evocative front cover is by Anne Toneff.

Tim Stenhouse