Vocalist Erik Leuthäuser, born outside Dresden, was just 19 when he recorded his 2015 debut album, In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee, an impressive collection of jazz standards performed in English and German. He has subsequently placed at or near the top of a spectrum of international vocal competitions. Wünschen (“Wishing”), his laudable sophomore release, is presented entirely in German, with Leuthäuser’s own compositions filling four of 11 tracks. Three marquee American players—guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, drummer Joey Baron, and bassist Greg Cohen (also the disc’s producer) team with Icelandic guitarist Daniel Fridrik Bödvarsson and Austrian keyboardist Elias Stemeseder. Versatile drummer Earl Harvin is also featured.
This stunning dreamscape, an ideal showcase for Leuthäuser’s ethereal yet dynamic sound—reminiscent of Chet Baker and Art Garfunkel—starts off restlessly with the electronica-fueled, vocalese-dotted “Wenn Ich Mir Was Wünschen Dürfte” (“If I Could Make a Wish”). The music thereafter maintains a dreamier cadence, peppered with moments of disquiet. Three selections will be immediately recognizable: “In Der Einsamkeit” (Ellington’s “Solitude”), “Säuglings Augen” (Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes”), and Gato Barbieri’s theme from Last Tango in Paris, all refitted with Leuthäuser’s own lyrics. Three tracks draw upon the work of singer/songwriter Dorothea Kehr, another from Hermann Hesse (the gently moving “Manchmal,” which features Leuthäuser alone with Stemeseder). As for Leuthäuser’s originals, all expertly crafted, they range from the roiling, troubled “Ich Hab Gehört Man Schwebt im Toten Meer” to the coyly frolicsome “Kannst Du Mein Kangaroo Sein?” and hauntingly impassioned, hymn-like “Nur Dein Gesicht.”