Lounging with Lauri
Archived Articles 29 Dec 2006 Otepää SlimEWR
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Saatpalu's smooth sixties stylings

Lauri Saatpalu, Katrin Mandel. Sa oled hea. Hyper.records, 2005, 53:48

There will always be a market for good quality easy-listening, the smooth popular jazz/pop standards. That's because sometimes one simply wishes to kick back without getting involved in atonality, quirky rhythm or strange lyrics. No apologies for that. The best tunes from this genre are covered by all kinds of singers, wishing to add their own interpretation to familiar melodies and words. At times some new versions can add a fresh sound to such classics, thus adding a bit of spice to what in essence is background music.

Vocalist Lauri Saatpalu's recent recording with Katrin Mandel is a fascinating collection of songs — both well known and some less so — by Estonian popular composers from the 1960's and 70's. This was a period during which the bossa/samba, Getz/Gilberto sound dominated what was heard on the radio waves and in the night clubs open to the select elite. No surprise then, that this 2005 CD faithfully reflects the tenor of that time.

Saatpalu's distinctive phrasings at times are reminiscent of some of the older crooners - Tony and Dean for sure, but certainly not Frank. Lauri likes the sound of his own voice a little too much at times - and this detracts from some cuts here. His voice is well suited for the material, but at its most affected can border of parody at times. Mandel steers well clear of this danger when given the chance to sing, interpreting the classics without undue frippery or excess emotion.

And emotion is at the heart of most of these well crafted tunes, words by such masters as Leelo Tungal, Heldur Karmo and Paul Haavaoks. Estrade luminaries Aarne Oit, Valter Ojakäär and Uno Naissoo are among the composers whose tunes have been selected with great care.

Percussionist Petteri Hasa has also arranged the lion's share of the numbers on the record. The backing quartet is rounded out by bassist Mihkel Mälgand, Raun Juurikas on keyboards and guitarist Peeter Rebane. Others contributing on selected cuts are pianist Jürmo Eespere, saxophonist extraordinaire Raivo Tafenau and perhaps most notably trumpeter Mihkel Metsala. His sweet, silvery, never brassy tones make up for those times that Saatpalu slips into the role of hotel lounge singer in a velour three-piece rather than staying focused on the material. Thankfully this happens infrequently, and does not sour the listener on the entire CD.

Ruth Huimerind and Jüri Lõun's attempt at designing a 60's record sleeve does not impress, — but the CD itself, blue-black and white, seen here in the bottom right quadrant of the sleeve, is attractive enough that it should have been the entire cover, rather than having to disappear into the player.

Saatpalu is good here, but not spectacular. That role has fortunately been filled by his supporting cast, and is reason enough to merit a listen. Considering the genre, smoothness is the end goal and Saatpalu's sashay into the past has been achieved here with admirable professionalism.
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