Transported beyond their original conception and timeline, the music is irrevocably of now and, in the moment, inviting the listening to inhabit the group’s sound world.

ECM 2781 / 551 9904

Elina Duni (voice); Rob Luft (guitar); Matthieu Michel (flugelhorn); Fred Thomas (piano, drums)

Recorded July 2022

With the same group that made the superb Lost Ships album in 2020, Elina Duni has managed not just to consolidate her achievements to date, but continue to evolve her music and that of this quartet into a seamless and timeless blend that stetches far beyond language and genre.

Paradoxically, while there is a timeless quality about the music, there is a common feeling of time that links the traditional with the present. Transported beyond their original conception and timeline, the music is irrevocably of now and, in the moment, inviting the listening to inhabit the group’s sound world.

Nowhere is this felt more on the traditional song ‘E Vogël’ from Albania and the Kosovan ‘Mora Testinë’ with the interplay from all four musicians of the highest level and creating a sound that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The overall feeling with this new recording is that the quartet is more expansive, yet seemingly plays very little. There is a lightness in the sound that embraces the music yet allows it to breathe.

Every nuance and gesture have their place, and the space in which to be felt as much as heard. Duni’s vocals on ‘Dawn’ for example, send shivers down the spine with their beauty and purity.

This expansiveness within the quartet also stretches to the repertoire, with Elina taking traditional songs from Albania and Kosovo, from Broadway musicals, and new material penned by the vocalist and guitarist Rob Luft inspired by their time spent in the Sinai Desert.

As such music by the couple such as ‘Évasion’ that utilise the poem by the Belgian-Israeli poet Esther Granek, draws on influences from other sources and is then presented in a way that is uniquely their own.

This way with the chosen repertoire is also captured in two perhaps unlikely songs from America in a remarkably tender version of ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal and an extraordinary take on Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Send in the Clowns’.

The arrangement for piano and guitar is beautifully detailed and judged to perfection so that there is not a note that is not essential or superfluous. Over this setting Elina’s vocals are nothing short of sublime.

This feeling is also to the fore in ‘Mallëngjimi’ written by Rashid Krasniqi, which translated from Albanian means ‘nostalgia’ with the addition of Matthieu Michel’s mellifluous flugelhorn.

Michel has an innate gift of knowing when to play, and more importantly what. He may accompany the melody line or offer a counter line to Duni’s vocal, or simply hook up in a unison passage with guitar of piano, but everything he plays has a softness and use of dynamics is compelling.

Fred Thomas comes into his own with his multi-instrumentalism playing piano and drums, and his contribution to the music cannot be underestimated.

In terms of lyricism, he is as sensitive and lyrical at the drum kit as he is at the piano, using both instruments to add depth and colour to the compositions, and his accompaniment must be a singer’s dream.

Elina Duni and Rob Luft have a strong musical relationship that is now perhaps only now beginning to show just how deep into the human emotions and psyche they can get.

Their concept for arranging their music now is now established, and with A Time To Remember they are looking to push the boundaries still further. Their song writing partnership has also strengthened into a formidable team that produces songs that reach deep into the soul and mind.

Not just highly recommended, but unmissable.