Album Title: Siren Song
Performer: Elisabeth Kontomanou
Label: Plus Loin Music
Playing time: 47'00 ''
Recorded: Arsenal de Metz, France – January 2008

Here we have an unusual collaboration of French jazz vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou with the Orchestra National de Lorraine conducted by Jacques Mercier from early 2008. Elisabeth Kontomanou returns to common Jazz compositions and a few of her own in a very intimate live atmosphere. The result is called Siren Song Live at Arsenal. Whether you like the cold voice of Kontomanou or not, the appeal of the album remains attached to the fine integration of the vocalist and her quartet with a big orchestral ensemble of more than 70 musicians that fits the repertoire with great subtlety.

For once the strings are definitely not intrusive. The layers of violins do not smooth over the strong flavor of the French singer. The overall album concept suggests a tribute to the famous ladies of vocal Jazz history such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. "At last" is the best example of successful integration between Jazz quartet and orchestra. Alongside her regular working group, Kontomanou's deeply soulful and resonant singing is particularly well balanced while spearheading the Orchestre National de Lorraine.

The captivating artistic posture of Kontomanou exudes class through "Come Sunday", "A Time for Love" and "A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing". As good classical music performances usually demonstrate, this album shows how interpretation and the fine art of arrangement can make all the difference for contemporary Jazz interpretations. Finally we get a very sophisticated album of the same caliber as earlier Gil Evans work. I had to listen several times to become completely aware of the high quality of the recording engineering staff. The album might have sounded more lively but the overall coherence would have lost too much.

The arrangements are mainly by trumpeter Tom Harrell and pianist/vocalist Gustav Karlström both of whom deliver really faultless performances. "I Put A Spell On You" reminds us of how this was a live production when Elizabeth interacts strongly the audience. I have seen her on stage with the French pianist Leila Olivesi only once but can attest to a terrific stage presence which here succeeded in leading an entire orchestra along nine tracks of one stunning album.