Review: Various Artists, Latin Faculty/Latinudeildin

Various Artists, Latin Faculty/Latinudeildin

18 Mar, 2013 Matthew Forss

Native Icelandic composer, Ingvi Thor Kormaksson, presents a new double-album of Brazilian-inspired jazz songs with salsa, bossa nova, and jazz standards are more South American than European.  Ingvi involves a host of vocalists and instrumentalists, including Gudrun Gunnars, Eivor Palsdottir, Iris Gudmundsdottir, Thor Breidfjord, Marina Osk, Erla Stefans, Jussanam, Edvard Larusson, and Stefan S. Stefansson.  The entire project is adult contemporary in general with a good deal of jazzy elements from bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, trumpet, and saxophone. The first album contains mostly English lyrics, while the second album includes the exact same song titles, but the songs are in Icelandic.

“Hummingbirds” begins with big band sound that is slightly jazz-centered.  Erla Stefans’ vocals float effortlessly throughout the song.  There are keyboard additions that mimic the piano.  The swishy percussion and jazzy trumpet create a nostalgic bossa nova feel and old-time jazz.  The vocals are fairly light and breathy without any overt incongruent melodies, structures, or vocals. The four-minute song contains classy jazz rhythms and instrumentation with pop standard vocals that are unforgettable.

“Summer Love” opens with a few brisk melodic sounds on guitar and keyboard.  Gudrun Gunnars’ vocals are breezy, light, and jazzy.  The percussion is swishy with a few rippling guitar sounds, and light cymbal clangs and taps throughout.  The main vocals are backed by indiscriminate vocals that follow the melody at a few times throughout the song.  The upbeat keyboard piano sounds are top-notch and engaging.  The slight Brazilian nod to musical structures is found in the guitar, percussion, and vocals.

“Funny Little Latin Beat” opens with an upbeat South American melody with male and female vocals by Iris Gudmundsdottir and Mummi Hermanns.  The instrumental backing is rich with Brazilian ambiance.  The swishy percussion, keyboard piano sounds, and spacious hand-drum-like sounds with jazzy trumpet provide a good Brazilian beat overall.  The big-band jazz-type sounds resemble a little Caribbean or Cuban melodies that do not disappoint.  The jazzy trumpet, percussion, and keyboard outro is instrumental and preceded by both vocals.

“My Wildest Dreams” begins with a languid jazz beat, swishy percussion, throbbing B3 sounds, and breezy guitar-work.  The instrumental opening bleeds into the Brazilian-type vocal nuances of Iris Gudmundsdottir.  The vocals are airy, smoky, and mature overall.  The sporadic cymbal clashes, acoustic guitar, and B3 sounds represent a slightly different song structure than other songs on the album.  However, the same Brazilian jazz elements are evident, along with a little roots or blues.

“The Image of You” begins with a few guitar strums, swishy percussion, and fluid keyboard accompaniment.  The jazzy melody is more smooth jazz than Brazilian jazz.  Still, the instrumental song is punctuated with fluid sounds, smooth jazz ambiance, and scintillating embellishments that are characteristic of North American jazz compositions.  At any rate, the three-and-a-half-minute song does not contain any vocals.  This is a great song for lounging or the old local forecasts on The Weather Channel.

Latinudeildin is a great compilation of musicians from Iceland that know how to perform Brazilian, Latin, bossa nova, and jazz music styles.  Most of the songs are vocal, but a few instrumental tunes pop up, too.  The mix of English, Portuguese, and Icelandic lyrics is exciting and cross-cultural.  Icelandic jazz musicians incorporating Brazilian influences into music-making are rather rare in today’s music.  However, Latinudeildin represents a two-album success of the cross-cultural and multi-ethnic compilations.  A host of singers and instrumentalists round out the set and all of the vocals are superlative.  Fans of international jazz, bossa nova, Brazilian music, and contemporary jazz will find solace in the compositions with ‘chilling’ results.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)