It‘s no secret that the sea has been the inspiration behind some of the best songs in the history of pop and jazz. The radiant light on the beach, the shimmering waves and a cool sea breeze all come together to fire the imagination… Coastal scenery from Florida to the Adriatic Sea provided the inspiration for the third album by Berlin-based singer Jessica Gall and her producer Robert Matt. The resulting masterpiece, “Riviera”, is an intimate work filled with wanderlust, wide open spaces and longing.
Even just the sound of the word “Riviera” evokes the image of easy-going Mediterranean life. Jessica Gall has sought out coastlines in a variety of countries: “When Robert Matt and I started work on this album, we were actually on the east coast of the States. The first ideas emerged right there on the beach. A lot of the other songs were also written at the sea, some in Nice and some at the good old Mecklenburg and Turkish Rivieras”.
Although she was born in Berlin, Jessica has always had a deep affinity with nature: “Even as a young girl I preferred to be among trees rather than go to cafes, events or crowded places”, she remembers. “I long for wide open spaces, solitude, that’s just the way I am. Nature is a great inspiration to me”. As on the preceding “Little Big Soul” album, these wide open spaces also find expression in her penchant for the Southern State stylistics felt in the airy depth and the sound of the pedal steel on the wonderful “Riviera” album. Nevertheless, rather than confining herself to narrow country pathways, she boldly bonds the spacious calmness of the underlying country mood with the intricacies of jazz.
In contrast to her last two albums on which she worked with a whole team of musicians, this time round she relied exclusively on the pianist and producer Robert Matt. Together, they tried out a few new recording techniques: “We experimented a lot with acoustic sounds, for example loops made up from plates banging against each other or plucked piano strings”. The album’s detailed production highlights the fact that the singer has gone through a contemplative period during the last year.
As always, her vocal artistry is at the heart of the album. Although Jessica Gall studied jazz at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin, from the very start she made sojourns into the world of pop music. The unique, multi-layered style she thus developed flows in the veins of every song on “Riviera”. Her inherent delicate timbre has the power to reflect a wide range of emotional states. “I don’t shout or belt songs out, that’s just not me. I come across best when my voice tells a story”, she admits.
And there is no shortage of stories on “Riviera”: The gently paced title song slowly unfurls, painting in great detail a maritime panorama with clear days at the sea, idyllic beach scenes and moonlight reflected on the waves. With its flamboyantly introspective lyrics, the opening track “I Close My Eyes” presents us with an overview of the world at large. While the light Celtic undertone in the exquisitely ethereal “Stones & Feathers” transports us to an island refuge, the magical piano part in “Rain” delivers a majestic melody “for the open road”. There is another glorious steel guitar feature on “Wonderland”, an invitation to rise out of the shadows like a glow-worm rediscovering its inner light.
Bravely transcending conventional pop and jazz barriers, “Riviera” is a glorious soundtrack filled with yearning that transports its listeners from Berlin straight to the great wide oceans of the world.