Three Reviews of
"LOVE BEING HERE"
Compared with her past CDs, this one includes more jazz and world music and her classically-trained voice enjoys the challenge. Who can resist the line "I'd love to kiss your dancing toes" in Elise's rendering of Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here with You" (yes, that Peggy Lee,) and her fun, tongue-twisting jazz duet with frequent collaborator Mick Kinney in his composition "You Got Me." You have to hear Elise and Mick play with the lyrics to understand that the words rodeo yodeling, Mnemosene, and possum really do all belong in the same song. Elise's composition "You Know" is more jazz than folk too, with Jez Graham's piano setting the pace.
The thoughtful organization of the material means that the classic jazz of Fats Waller's "You're My Dish" doesn't sound out of place on the same CD as the familiar "Black Orpheus" theme and Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose," which Elise strips down to its melodic essentials, (accompanied by Renato Pompilio on guitar) with none of Piaf's affectations.
Elise seems most at home when singing in romance languages such as French and Spanish (the supremely romantic tango "Si Tu Supieras"), Portuguese and Italian (her own heart-felt "Una Nuova Armonia" and Enzo Fusco's "Dicetencello Vuje" about a Cyrano de Bergerac-style courting custom). There's German too. Her poignant rendering of "Singen Macht Alles Gut," with Takana Miyamoto on piano, stands nicely on its own, but read the liner notes to get the full story - and more insight into why Elise sings. Here in the States we think of world music as something beyond U.S. borders, but Elise's gentle composition "Mimosa Time" is a sweet reminder that the South, too, is its own country with music the world can enjoy.
A talented family of musicians joins Elise on this CD including Maurice Turner, Don Erdman (both superb on "I Love Being Here With You" and "You're My Dish"), Scott Douglas, Beverly Botsford (exotic percussion), Daniel Brown, Rodger French and many others.
* Gillian Renault is a freelance writer who has written extensively about the performing arts for the Los Angeles News, the Herald Examiner, Dance Magazine, California Magazine, and many other outlets. She has hosted arts programs for KCRW radio (NPR affiliate) and Pacifica station KPFK, both in Los Angeles.
Love Being Here
One of the joys of reviewing music is the opportunity to find artists and music which would never have otherwise blipped your radar screen. It remains a longstanding truism that some of our finest artists and not well known in the general population. Such is the case with Elise Witt.
Swiss-born, Elise Witt makes her home in Atlanta. She speaks five languages fluently and sings more than twice that many. She has performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to South Africa. Her music is as eclectic as her background, Love Being Here being her ninth album.
Many of her songs are sung in languages other English, reflecting their origin or inspiration. This is presented simply, even matter-of factly. In her liner notes, all lyrics are presented, with English translations for most of the non-English songs. These are mostly unnecessary thanks to Elise''s ability to communicate music in a manner that transcends language.
The title comes from the opening song, a Peggy Lee classic. Elise does the song justice, giving it a swinging, jazzy piano-based take which would give even Peggy tapping her toe and snapping her fingers.
Record shop owners would have a hard time figuring out where to place this CD. It is jazzy, but rootsy. It is classic, yet contemporary. It is international, but deeply personal. It would be best to create a new category: "Damn Fine Music."
Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society. This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.