Elina Duni | “A Time to Remember” | ECM
Swiss-Albanian Jazz Singer Elina Duni’s A Time To Remember
is a Continuation of the Special Synergy That Inhabited
Her Acclaimed 2020 ECM Release Lost Ships
A Time To Remember Features the Same Quartet of
Guitarist Rob Luft, Matthieu Michel on Flugelhorn and
Fred Thomas on Percussion and Piano
Available June 16 via ECM
“Duni’s voice is remarkable, for while it is crystal clear in its multilingual enunciation it is also intimate and expressive in tone. […] Whatever the song, she approaches it with a tentative and in place haunting delivery, fully expressing the longing described in many of the songs…” — Jazz Journal
A Time To Remember is a continuation of the special synergy that inhabited Elina Duni’s acclaimed Lost Ships and finds her regrouping with that album’s quartet of guitarist Rob Luft, Matthieu Michel on flugelhorn and Fred Thomas on percussion and piano. Over the course of the past years, the group’s rapport has grown more familiar, leading to greater interplay and a collaborative spirit.
Elina: “I think this album is a reflection of our shared passion for musical storytelling, going beyond genre and language. After several years on the road touring together, the slightly unconventional lineup now sits comfortably, and inhabits its own, singular world of sound. It feels like the most cinematic album I’ve made to date, too, with every song suggesting a different film. It draws inspiration from our diverse, multi-lingual repertoire of traditional folksong.”
As the title suggests, the notion of ‘time’ – in a fleeting sense – pulls through the programme like a theme, connecting music from different parts of the world – traditionals, popular songs and original compositions – in performances of deep lyricism but also fleet-footed folklore. The repertory spans Albanian and Kosovan traditionals, American songs like the Broadway classic “I’ll Be Seeing You” and Stephen Sondheim’s musical ballad “Send In The Clowns” as well as originals by Rob and Elina.
The lyrics of the opening piece “Évasion” are taken from the eponymous poem by the Belgian-Israeli poet Esther Granek, and have been set to music by Elina and Rob. The quartet renders the already pensive words in stark melancholy, as guitar, piano and trumpet, through arpeggiated patterns, suggest the ebbing and flowing tides of the sea, which is among the poem’s main symbols.
Many of the original compositions on the album are heavily inspired by an extended spell Rob and Elina spent in the Sinai Desert and reference the Red Sea, desert climate and nature in general – naturally provoking the cinematic quality Elina hints at. “Of course these peculiar past years have provoked something more intimate – it has been a period of introspection for many. What’s more, the record draws from nostalgia, too, incorporating music like the Albanian song ‘Mallëngjimi’, which literally translates to ‘nostalgia’, or ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’. There was a willingness to go to the essence of things, to the core of the chosen songs, revealing something bare that seems to echo the Sinai Desert”.
Rob and Elina’s musical bond is key to the group’s floating interplay and the development of the musical material. The two also tour as a duo and collaborate as co-writers throughout the album. “Rob has a sun-drenched, solar side to his playing and writing,” Elina explains, “while I tend to be drawn to darker musical colours. Combining these two contrasting elements can be a great challenge, but the result is equally rewarding. Finding the middle ground is a way for us to become sincere and authentic in our collective.” Commenting on the group’s last effort, Jazzwise said that “the sum of Duni and Luft’s work together seems greater than their individual achievements, where concept and conceptualisation have combined to produce a classic.” A Time To Remember should confirm that proposition and further expands on the qualities explored previously.
After two acclaimed quartet recordings for ECM with pianist Colin Vallon, bassist Patrice Moret and Norbert Pfammatter on drums – 2012’s Matanë Malit and Dallёndyshe from 2015 – Swiss-Albanian singer Elina Duni presented her unique voice and striking range of musical influences and songwriting in a solo setting on Partir (2018). The album captured the vocalist accompanying herself on guitar, piano and percussion and interpreting songs from very diverse sources – spanning folk songs and chansons to singer-songwriter ballads. The French Jazz Magazine described the album as “transcendent, highlighting the pure and luminous voice of a particularly sensitive singer.”
The follow-up, Lost Ships (2020), was the debut of her quartet with Fred Thomas, Rob Luft and Matthieu Michel and garnered much praise. Jazz Journal said: “As ever with Duni, this is an album of craft and skill, of beautiful vocals and subtle instrumentation, performed with perfection. As ever, evocative and intensely moving.”
Matthieu Michel previously appeared on ECM as part of bassist Michel Benita’s quartet on Looking At Sounds (2020), and with Susanne Abbuehl on The Gift (2013).
Fred Thomas meanwhile has debuted his own leader recording for the label on the New Series, presenting his trio arrangements of Bach chorale preludes, vocal cantatas and orchestral sinfonias on Three Or One (2021), alongside violoncellist Lucy Railton and violinist Aisha Orazbayeva.
Elina Duni · A Time to Remember
ECM · Release Date: June 16, 2023
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