Masha Qrella

morr 091 

Masha Qrella
Speak Low - Loewe And Weill In Exile

out: 05.06.2009

Masha Qrella: Speak Low - Loewe And Weill In Exile

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Speak Low - Loewe And Weill In Exile

In October 2007, Masha Qrella was asked by Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) to put together an evening's performance as part of the "New York-Berlin" celebrations to mark the venue's 50th anniversary. Under the heading "Broadway - Cradle of Popular Music", the challenge was to work with and find new approaches to the compositions of Kurt Weill and Frederick Loewe. We asked Detlef Diederichsen, the curator of the series of events, to write liner notes for the upcoming release of recordings of new interpretations of Broadway classics. Here is an excerpt: "[...] Imagine what it would be like to find the common denominator between Berlin and Broadway by having a contemporary Berlin artist do fresh interpretations in his/her own style of the work of these two giants of Broadway who had their origins in Berlin, and by having that artist work just as creatively and freely within the rules and parameters of musicals as Weill and Loewe did a full half a century ago. The songs of Weill and Loewe were examined to see how relevant they were fifty years on and to what extent they could be integrated into today's pop world, or whether they would be no better than ballroom nostalgia or banal TV 'variety spectacular' material. I wanted to choose a Berlin artist to work on this project who you wouldn't really expect to be involved in something like this - I didn't simply want to choose someone from the neo-swing scene, for example. Instead, I wanted someone who would have to get to grips with these compositions for the first time because they actually came from a totally different musical genre, from one of the many pop niche scenes around today. However, I still wanted someone who wrote songs themselves and who would thus be able to judge Weill and Loewe's output for themselves. I wanted someone who had the technical ability to take on these songs which are sometimes quite sophisticated, particularly compared to today's indie-pop songs.
Masha Qrella wasn't the first name that occurred to me, but she was the first person who ticked all the right boxes. Another reason I chose her was that I think she is a great singer who could also take on more challenging material than what she usually sings. I thought it would be interesting if her voice, with its musical background, was to sing a fresh interpretation of the song "Speak Low", for example, which has been covered so many times by hundreds of jazz singers, both male and female. I thought maybe she would reject my idea and say I was crazy when I suggested my idea to her. However, the album "Speak Low - Loewe and Weill in Exile" shows that she was open to my suggestions and that she even managed to exceed my already optimistic expectations for her. She and her musical partners have really succeeded in arranging and playing the Weill/Loewe originals in such a way that you'd think the musicians had just come up with them themselves - in other words, they have succeeded in making the songs their own! They also avoid the drama and theatricality that almost every other artist so far has obviously felt compelled to employ, and have managed to maintain the laconic, melancholy atmosphere that has pervaded their other albums up to now. A listener who didn't know in advance who wrote this material would probably say that Masha's new songs were her own compositions. However, I don't just want to praise Masha and her band - the songs selected also passed the tests we subjected them to with flying colours. They really work in this context and really come alive here. A standard like "September Song", which has almost been covered to death, comes alive again here; "Wandering Star", which seemed destined to remain a musical joke since Lee Marvin's grunting version of it, plucks your heart strings again; the version of "Speak Low" by the Four Freshmen is also no longer necessarily the definitive version for the rest of eternity. A pity that Carnegie Hall ran out of money midway through for its Berlin programme. Unfortunately, this meant that there was only the one performance in Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) in October 2007. However, this fact makes the new album even more precious!" Detlef Diederichsen, Berlin, March 2009.
In contrast to the two previous albums, this time around the pieces were arranged for a band and then recorded live in studio over a period of four days.

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