Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Lisa Engelken: Little Warrior

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Lisa Engelken’s Little Warrior does precisely what a good sophomore album should: build upon a solid base (her 2010 debut, Caravan) while growing more adventurous and, by extension, more original. Working with a superb West Coast rhythm section-bassist Sam Bevan, drummer Matthew Swindells (both from Caravan) and pianist Bill Cantos-augmented by brass, strings, percussion and backing vocals from 13 interwoven guests, Engelken wades in gently with her own “Foggy Bottom,” a staccato elegy to a dying relationship, followed by a breezy, Brasil ’66-esque take on Signor Rossi’s “Viva la Felicità.”

About midway through the third track-a cover of the Cars’ “You Wear Those Eyes” that progresses from tiptoe to sashay to orgasmic eruption-Engelken’s natural state, that of a barely contained pressure cooker, is revealed. She keeps the lid secured across a bewitching “Throw It Away”; then, fittingly, she explodes on “Housemate From Hell,” a wail-fueled cacophony that seems the nightmare version of “Eleanor Rigby.” The untamed brilliance continues through “Undertow,” Engelken’s chillingly hypnotic reinterpretation of Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti,” and a storm-dotted navigation of Chick Corea’s “Sea Journey.”

To close, Engelken reinforces her versatility with an ice-cool rendering of Joni Mitchell’s “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire” that gradually turns blistering, an edge-of-madness reading of Tom Waits’ “Blue Valentines,” and a sparkling “All I Do Is Dream of You” that’s at once wholesome and wicked.

Originally Published