Born: 1970 in Oslo, Norway
Genres: Jazz, Pop/Rock
Styles: Adult Contemporary, Jazz-Pop, Alternative/Indie Rock, Sophisti-Pop, Jazz Instrument, Guitar Jazz
Nordic folk-jazz chanteuse Rebekka Bakken was the most successful exponent of a new generation of Scandinavian jazz singers that also included Silje Nergaard, Sidsel Endresen, and Solveig Slettahjell. Born in Oslo in 1970, Bakken studied violin and piano as a child, and in 1995 relocated to New York City to pursue a professional music career. There she paired with Austrian-born guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, and together they toured the local nightclub circuit as a duo. In time Bakken also befriended German pianist Julia Hulsmann, with whom she recorded the 2003 album Scattering Poems, a collection of jazz performances inspired by the poes of e.e. cummings. Upon completing the project Bakken returned to Europe, settling in Vienna and signing a solo deal with the Universum label. Her debut LP, The Art of How to Fall, followed by year's end, and in 2005 she resurfaced with her commercial breakthrough, Is That You? I Keep My Cool
- Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide)
Those who like it, probably know it well. And those who pretend not to like it possibly never experienced it: The dawn in the early morning hours when the mist slowly melts in the sun and the dewdrops still glisten auspiciously.
But what exactly is so special about morning hours that Rebkka Bakken named her new album after them? An early morning call shall enlighten us. "Oh," she responds laughingly, "at this time of the day I'm not yet prepared for such a question." And after a while she continues: "It is the time at which a day is not yet filled with impressions. When your mind is still pure and innocent... which is a beautiful state of mind. Everything comes out of a certain nothingness and has not yet lost its mysteries. I really like that."
On "Morning Hours" she leaves her songs a lot of room to enfold. "All this space is important for me," says Rebekka Bakken,"it is like a long, deep breath, like the instinct of life per se. In this space you deal with the things that really matter in life." Her fourth album sounds different from its predecessors, more mysteriously and yet closer to reality. And it is her most romantic work to date. "I actually did not realize that at first. I really love the album because the songs sound like I wrote them. There's nothing that stands between me and them. I did not have to elaborate much because I immediately felt comfortable with them."
The fact that the Norwegian artist lived quite a long time in New York City and Vienna adds some charming and contrasting colours to her works. The music of her native country is still associated with notorious cliches. Rebekka, however, does not consider herself a musical landscape painter. "I never had the impression that my surroundings - neither at home nor abroad - contributed much to my inspiration." Still - listeners who are bound to do so will discover the long winters, the crystal clear mountain air, and the mystic fjord landscapes in her former records. "Such images are only created in the eye of the beholder," reflects Rebekka. "As musicians we shouldn't be afraid of these cliches, of images others associate with our music. Our listeners notice things that musicians are not aware of. When I listen to Brazilian music, certain images come to my mind which no Brazilian would ever think of because it is their everyday music. So I have no problem with it if somebody recognizes Norway in my songs. That's fine with me."
On "Morning Hours", however, everything is different. It's Rebekka's first album recorded in the US. And it's her first collaboration with Craig Street, a producer who himself draws inspiration from his native country. Therefore the music of this album is evoking American landscapes rather than Scandinavian distances. May it be images of the Indian summer, the heat of the South, rugged East Coast motives or even Midwest sceneries.
The beautiful lyrics of her songs suggest that the artist wrote about personal experiences. But the impression is deceiving. "These songs are not about private matters, they are not autobiographical," the singer admits. "I write about events and people, and I ask myself how these people feel at that moment." A fine example for this is the song "Powder Room Collapse". "When women put on their make-up in front of a mirror you can see pretty well what's going on in their minds. It could be virtually anything. They could be thinking about their financial situation or question themselves 'Is my hair still okay?'" But personal experiences - including those of romantic nature - must have inspired her to a certain extent. There's no other explanation for how intimate and romantic these songs occur. On "Morning Hours" Rebekka Bakken sometimes needs only two octaves of her four octave voice. "These songs simply did not call for exaggerated vocal acrobacies," she explains. A reduction that did a wonderful job on this album.