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When Albanian singer Elina Duni was studying classical music and jazz
in Switzerland, she didn't know any folk songs from her homeland – but
after 2004, they became her central inspiration. Duni sings in Albanian,
but though these Balkan melodies are reclaimed with scrupulous care,
her technique runs from flawlessly pitched, hymnlike incantations to
swerving wordless improv in the style of Norma Winstone or Sidsel
Endresen, while her partnership with Swiss pianist Colin Vallon's trio
enhances the discreet subtleties of her jazz sensibility. An early track
such as the solemnly pulsing Kjani trima is traditional, but Duni
shifts from a melodious suppleness to skimming improvisation in the more
emphatic Kur Te Kujtosh, and becomes turbulently emotional over
Vallon's sinister banging chords after the tranquil beginnings of Vajze e
Valeve. The singer's taut timing and rhythmic inventiveness develop the
damped-strings groove of Eere Pranverore, while Re Kambana suggests
more declamatory, African-inflected singing and the blues, and Cobankat
sounds like a slow country and western song. This quartet definitely
sounds like rising star material for ECM.