Mark Wartenberg, The Prickle

Emma Frank’s third album, Ocean Av, is a brilliant reflection on selfhood and life. Her performance at Berlin’s ZigZag Jazz Club was a prime example of how authentic music can gradually disarm and win over new audiences. Her songs are inner meditations made delicately public, which lose nothing of the inner swirl of life unfolding second by second.

Frank’s songs hold a deep kinship to jazz, but her music is too personal and idiosyncratic to belong to any single genre. The rhythms and melodies quicken, bend and pause. Frank’s voice, always melodious, is tinged with a deep and perhaps unsettling intimacy. A subterranean layer of emotion seizes the songs and Frank’s voice, a conduit, dips and soars in unexpected ways.

Frank’s band members preserve the balance required by the constant ebb and flow of Frank’s music, and seem to share Frank’s deceptively sophisticated savoir-faire for breezy introspection. Jazz pianist Elias Stemeseder matches Frank’s yearning for musical truth, while bassist Desmond Whit and drummer Jim Black provide a powerful counterpoint to Frank’s ethereal sound.

Emma Frank’s music is alive with personal feeling, awash in musings on time, love, and other topics. Lyrics like “I’m going to win this, I’m going to fight,” from the wistful song All That’s Good, point to Frank’s inner strength and calm, rather than any need for outside validation or explanation. Frank is happy to exist in this state of perpetual possibility, and her music challenges listeners to submit to the same freedom.

You can stream Ocean Av on Bandcamp.

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