Not everyone is privy to the myriad of ways modern jazz is represented, and that is unfortunate. As a decidedly American art form, jazz has come to embrace the stylistic takes of performers around the globe, and for the most part, it works. On “Intertwined,” Tal Cohen, a young man who grew up in Israel and moved to Australia as a teen, collaborates with American blues and jazz singer, Danielle Wertz. The result is unexpectedly pensive; Cohen and Wertz’ “Intertwined” is thoughtful, calm, and almost elusive in nature.
So much happens on “Intertwined” in an understated way that it requires repeated listening sessions to fully appreciate what’s happening in these two young, award-winning artists’ collaboration. The classic sound is replicated here in an intricate, yet understated take on jazz standards.
The intimacy created in the songs on the album could make some listeners feel a bit voyeuristic. Cohen’s piano playing style reflects the Jewish folk songs he grew up playing, with a mix of classical music. Wertz’s voice is light, but not faint, and it is certainly flexible. Her vocal quality perfectly reflects nature observed through a window, as in the song “Beautiful Love.” The rain, the leaves, and the singer/narrator’s memories are beautifully cast as objects worthy of reflection. Listeners are invited into the singer’s thoughts and invited to examine their own.
One word that could describe the entire work is “gentle.” That is true even in “I Wish You Love.” There, the lyrics take on a rhythm more commonly associated with Spoken Word performances, yet the lyrical approach remains light and consistent. Wertz, at least on this recording, is given to scatting, or vamping. This typically happens at the end or middle end of songs. The resulting effect is playfulness, as the piano notes and the lyrics intertwine and separate, creating a modern but cozy atmosphere. Throughout, Wertz’s voice remains a delicate filigree of sound.
The light quality of Wertz’s voice also makes it sound as though someone is calling from some emotional distance away. On “Chopin Meets Abach,” this feeling is amplified. A series of syllables soar gently over the Chopin-inspired piano, making the listener want to experience it all again.
“Manhattan in the Rain” is a beautifully nuanced song. It is a classy twist on a New York story, wistful and wise all at once. The story that the lyrics tell get the focus, but Cohen’s piano work along with Wertz’s voice, allows listeners to create pictures in their minds. In fact, the entire album sounds like a true collaboration. Perhaps that is why the title is apt.
While words like “gentle” and “delicate” are apt descriptors for the singing, and sometimes for the overall sound on the album, the work does not lapse into whimsy. For these young performers to have mastered the ability to balance sentiment with light sounds is an accomplishment. The expression here is melancholy at times, but somehow, when Wertz’s voice swells just a bit, listeners get the impression that what they are hearing is triumph.
“Intertwined” is in itself a triumph—for jazz, for young musicians, and for listeners.