The Origin of Adjustable Things
Throughout the entirety of this release, the partnership of vocalist-composer Joanna Wallfisch and pianist Dan Tepfer exudes a made-in-heaven ambiance that captivates on a number of levels. There’s an intimate, recital-like quality to the duo’s measured performances and Wallfisch’s poetic, finely crafted lyrics possess great beauty. The singer penned eight of the program’s 12 tracks and looked to an eclectic group of composers to fill out the rest of the bill. Included are Radiohead’s “Creep,” Tim Buckley’s “Song To a Siren,” Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ “Never Let Me Go” and Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington’s “Wild is the Wind” (from the 1957 film of the same name). On most of the takes, regardless of the source, Wallfisch and Tepfer project a dreamy, low-key mood that gently caresses the set’s pensive lyrics.
Wallfisch’s impulsive “This Is How You Make Me Feel” is one work that runs against the grain of the placid air that defines most of the tracks. The singer launches the tune in an up-tempo mode, repeating a clever, two-bar phrase of vocalese. The pianist replicates the phrase when Wallfisch moves on to the song’s lyrics. Throughout the date, the two counterbalance one another in an effortless give-and-take manner that creates a comforting structure while not detracting from the session’s nonchalant improvisation.
And how does Wallfisch feel? “You make me want to wash my hair sometimes three times a day” she allows before admitting that “You make me want to run and scream and go dancing in the snow.” Most of the tracks are straight vocal-and-piano takes, but on “Time Doesn’t Play Fair,” another original, Wallfisch fashions a multi-track vocal-chorus effect as Tepfer provides a shower of rippling notes. It’s a nice change of pace by the Brit, whose singing reveals nary a trace of her native accent but an abundance of stylistic nuance and class. —Mark Holston