Ingrid James & Libor Smoldas Organ Trio - Midnight Sun



“EARTHY AND SOULFUL...RICHLY MELODIC MOMENTS ABOUND”…“Just the right balance of familiarity and surprise". Steve Robertson, Fleurieu FM Radio Host

“SIZZLING-HOT RENDITION OF BILL EVAN’S OBSCURE GEM ‘FUNKALERRO’…"high charged emotional density, without ever turning into melodrama…” Nikolas Fotakis, editor

NEVER LET ME GO  –  “It has zest, it has juice” Jan Hocek, Jazzport, CZ

LITTLE SUNFLOWER  – “…dense, malleable, elaborate, layered, emotional, with juicy guitar, powerfully graduated to anthemic!" Jan Hocek, Jazzport, CZ

“SWOONABLE” Stu Robertson, 101fm Jazz Radio Presenter

The album Midnight Sun comprises a rich program from the Great American Songbook with classics from the 1930’s to 1950’s such as “I’ll Remember April”, “Close Your Eyes”, “Midnight Sun”, “Never Let Me Go” to classic Modern Jazz Standards  with Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower”, and Bill Evans’ “Funkallero”, Joey Calderazzo’s “Midnight Voyage”, including re-workings of the 1966 classic from the film Midnight Cowboy, “Everybody’s Talkin’” and Billy Joel’s unique 1977 composition “The Stranger” as well as an original “All You (No More Questions), penned by Libor and Ingrid. Many of the songs on the album have been arranged by Libor Smoldas for this international hammond organ/guitar/drums/voice unit, plus a haunting original, written and arranged by London’s Pete Churchill - “When Words Fail”.
With timeless melodies that span from the 1930’s to the present day, Midnight Sun is a unique and distinctive collaboration between Australian jazz vocalist, Ingrid James, and her musical colleague from Prague, internationally acclaimed Czech guitarist  Libor Smoldas “one of the fastest rising talents on the Prague jazz scene” (The Prague Post). Ingrid and Libor have performed and regularly toured since 2013. “They share a similar approach to jazz, their assertive phrasing being infused with a sort of lyrical sensitivity…” Nikolas Fotakis, editor, Recorded in Australia, joining them in studio on the recording, are Zakub Zomer on hammond organ from Prague also, known for his “roaring organ solos” (Downbeat Magazine), as well as Sacha Kloostra (drums/percussion, Australia), with special guests Lachlan Hawkins (hand pan, Australia on “The Stranger") and Paul Armstrong (trumpet, USA/AUS on “Little Sunflower").

“Ingrid James’ warm, clear and classy vocals work beautifully – sometimes upfront with a tune or a scat sections, at other times, becoming another instrument, immersed in the texture, following the guitar or organ, or singing what might otherwise be a horn line. She navigates some tough charts with great skills, while Libor Smoldas Organ Trio groove with funky ease all around her…” Tony Backhouse (AUS/NZ) Author/Vocal Arranger/Choir Director

“This new 2022 release from Ingrid James and Libor Smoldas Organ Trio, is an indefinable blend of jazz styles, yet somehow remains distinctive within its exposition of tunes. Midnight Sun has an inviting 1960’s metro retro-futuristic “Verve / Blue Note / Pablo” feel, as if from one these prestigious label’s vaults, an unreleased 2-inch master tape was discovered. An interesting backstory it would make, if only it was true. Except for the obviously new composed tracks these artists, under Ingrid and Libor’s hands, have been creatively treated in 2020-2021. An example being Billy Joel’s shadowy musical narrative “The Stranger” and of course Fred Neil’s Grammy Award winning “Everybody’s Talkin’” (one of the many subtle nods to Midnight). The collage of musical talent paint-brushed into this album is astounding, and like the cover art, actually painted by Ms James herself, her vocals and the performers instruments mix, merge and separate as if the tune itself at times is merely a vehicle showcasing the genius of note formation. Try the simple swoonable six-minute version of “I’ll Remember April” with the swirling hammond organ, leaving you with one decision to make. Which red wine to choose! Of the eleven tracks listed, credit must be given to a composition by Ingrid and Libor. Delicate by the choice of his guitar notes, enriched with the sizzle of Sacha Kloostra’s snare and the hammond organ from Jakub Zomer laying a bed of mysterious chords, Ingrid sings “All You (No More Questions)” with unabashed confidence. This friends, is superb radio-friendly Jazz. Enjoy at any time of day - or midnight” Stu Robertson (Grad. Air-TV) Reviewed by 101FM Jazz Presenter.

 “Of all the skills required for exemplary singing, ‘selling’ the lyric might just be the hardest…A lot of singers past and present are great at hitting the notes and not much else…But in the old days, standouts like Billie Holiday (especially), Lee Wiley and the forgotten Teddy Grace, made you feel like these words really had personal meaning. A few years ago, the late Susannah McCorkle could also perform this rare feat; today it is Ingrid James….Covering the years from 1930s to today, this CD’s repertoire provides just the right balance of familiarity and surprise…Most impressively on many of the tracks, Ingrid’s voice takes the place of a sax or trumpet, with delicious results. On Close Your Eyes, I’ll Remember April and The Stranger especially, her wordless vocals illuminate the melodies and blend to perfection with her gifted backing group, Libor Smoldas (guitar) and Jakub Zomer (hammond organ) both from Prague, and Sacha Kloostra (drums), who’s from Brisbane. Richly melodic moments abound: On Funkallero, the sassy spirit of Annie Ross pays a welcome visit; never have Johnny Mercer’s wonderfully impressionistic lyrics received a more enduring reading than on Midnight Sun; and Ingrid brilliantly and with astonishing range caresses the words to Never Let Me Go, one of the most poignant ballads of all time. Midnight Voyage is earthy and soulful, with an organ solo that recalled The Doors; adding a touch of latin; a nice contribution from Paul Armstrong trumpet, on Little Sunflower, reveals composer Freddie Hubbard’s gentler side; and a personal favourite, Fred Neil’s hit tune Everybody’s Talkin’, imagines Joe Buck and Ratso wandering the mean streets of Cairo, not NYC. Guitarist Libor Smoldas serves up gems throughout, especially on When Words Fail and The Stranger. In an era when pop music stars emote and pull faces to try to convince us that often inane lyrics actually mean something to them, it is so refreshing to savour a REAL singer like Ingrid working with solid material. Enjoy!” Steve Robertson, host Jazz Radio on Fleurieu FM, South Australia

“I sometimes call her ‘goddess’ as a sort of inside joke – only I’m not really joking. As a convert, a believer, and a follower, I’ve kept a close eye on her endeavours – and I discovered an artist who is never afraid to explore, to dig deep, to connect. In her search for connection, Ingrid has travelled wherever music has asked her to – from Los Angeles, where she made two magnificent albums with jazz-funk powerhouse San Gabriel 7, to Alexis Tcholakian’s Paris haunts, to Prague.  Libor is a genuine jazz guitar virtuoso, seamlessly combining the American blues-based tradition with European folk and classical elements, shaping them into a signature style that’s all his own. Libor and Ingrid share a similar approach to jazz, their assertive phrasing being infused with a sort lyrical sensitivity...Jakub Zomer, a gentle giant with a wicked sense of humour, who tames the organ beast, making it purr and breathe fire – sometimes simultaneously – at his will…The trio is completed by Brisbane drummer Sacha Kloostra, while Paul Armstrong’s trumpet and Lachlan Hawkins’ pan drum add texture to the mix in Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’ and Billy Joel’s ’The Stranger’, respectively. It’s not very often that you’ll read the names of Hubbard and Joel in the same sentence, and that is testament to Ingrid James’ electic taste in material, perfectly demonstrated in this album’s tracklist.  If you are normal person, you probably started listening from the beginning, and were swept away from the sizzling-hot rendition of Bill Evans’ obscure gem ‘Funkalerro’. I, on the other hand, started by the tunes I already knew and loved, was looking forward to hearing – such as Lionel Hampton’s ‘Midnight Sun’ (one of the most romantic songs ever written), ‘I’ll Remember April’, and ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’. Yes, they are all ballads, all of them played with a high charged emotional density, without ever turning into melodrama. Contrary to most of Ingrid James’ albums, there’s only one original here, ‘All You (No More Questions)’. It’s a bittersweet love song that showcases Libor Smoldas’ earthy lyricism, Jakub Zomer’s ability to create haunting sonic undercurrents, and Sacha Kloostra’s carefully timed explosions, not to mentiion Ingrid James’ masterful control of her instrument…” Nikolas Fotakis, editor,
“As you know, our jazz guitarist, Libor Smoldas, is at home with his opponents. And it is therefore not surprising when one of the most awarded Australian jazz singers, INGRID JAMES…chose his Libor Smoldas Organ Trio to accompany her on her next, tenth album in a row. It is titled “Midnight Sun”. The singer and teacher from Queensland is known not only from Australian stages, but also from clubs and festivals in the United States, and in recent years, also in Europe, including the Czech Republic….The album opens with a real gem - "Funkallero" by pianist Bill Evans from 1956...Swift phrases, vocal balance, vocalized lines in unison with the guitar, solos by all three instrumentalists. Great right at the start.  "Never Let Me Go”, the theme song from the 1956 film noir of the same name, sung by Dinah Washington; it has zest, it has juice, and the organist really shines with an excellent solo! And right after that, a cover of Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" (1967), covered and re-sung by Al Jarreau in 1979, is indeed a successful capture - dense, malleable, elaborate, layered, emotional, with juicy guitar, powerfully graduated to anthemic! Dramaturgically interesting is also the inclusion of the song "When Words Fail" by the British singer-songwriter Pete Churchill….the distinctive theme is carried by the guitar throughout (the motif is almost Morricone-esque), the singer captures the mood and theme. In an excellent way, the album closes with the famous song “Everybody’s Talkin’”, which was made famous by the movie “Midnight Cowboy” and in 1968, singer Harry Nilsson stormed almost all the charts in the world. Safe bet? I would say, not; the singer could easily break her teeth on it. But it didn’t happen like that. Great phrasing and accentuated rhythmicity with a hint of Latin, gave the originally country-tuned song a new freshness….” Jan Hocek, Jazzport, CZ

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