Feb 4, 2017
Do we have a more diverse singer today than Theo Bleckmann? The German born singer and composer’s recordings range from albums of Las Vegas standards, Weimar art songs, newly-arranged songs by Charles Ives (with jazz/rock collective Kneebody); and his acclaimed Hello Earth - the Music of Kate Bush. You may also have heard Bleckmann on jazz recordings by Ambrose Akinmusire and Julia Hülsmann, but also with Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson and Michael Tilson Thomas. Yet, he considers himself first and foremost a jazz singer.
His newly formed Elegy Quintet composed of Snai Maestro [piano], Chris Tordini [bass], John Hollenbeck [drums] and Ben Monder [guitar] has just their new CD, appropriately entitled Elegy. As with so many projects on the label, ECM label head and founder, Manfred Eicher, was the producer. In so many ways, Theo is the consummate ECM vocalist – he uses spacing with great dexterity, allowing silence and a slow turn of a phrase to be key components of his sound. Clearly, he is well suited for a label that advertises their music is “the most beautiful sound next to silence”. Whether turning Stephen Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight” on its head or supplying wordless vocals for “Fields”, Bleckmann’s voice commands your attention at all times.
Podcast 560 is my conversation with Theo, where we discuss his early interest in music, how jazz compares to classical and pop music in his approach, and what it was like to record with the legendary Eicher on projects. Musical selections from Elegy include “Comedy Tonight”, the title track and “To Be Shown to Monks at a Certain Temple.”