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Elisabeth Kontomanou: Back to My Groove

She is as soulful as Sarah Vaughan, as smooth and mellow as Dianne Reeves and comes equipped with a fighting spirit as passionate as Nina Simone’s. She is fire and ice, earth and water, innocent and sage. Yet, among the world’s great vocal-jazz practitioners, Elisabeth Kontomanou remains perhaps the least known on this side of the Atlantic. In 2006, she earned an enormous international hit with Waitin’ for Spring, her third album as leader, but failed to penetrate the collective American jazz psyche as deeply as she deserved. Waitin’ for Spring marked the French-born singer’s first attempt at recording her own songs.

Now, with the explosively good Back to My Groove, she’s decided to abandon covers altogether, serving up 10 of her own compositions plus one written by fellow vocalist Gustav Karlström. Thematically and stylistically, it is an eclectic mix, ranging from the feisty resilience of the title track and urgently driven power of “The Abuse” to the Bacharach and David-esque lilt of “You’ve Changed My World” and dreamy optimism of “What a Life.” As such, it is an ideally vibrant showcase for Kontomanou’s marvelous dexterity, and a perfect entry point for the uninitiated.

Originally Published