The inexplicable does not need a plan. It manifests itself. Lisa Bassenge, singer and songstress from Berlin, has long felt the desire to try something completely different, explore new territory unknown to herself and her audience. While being a highly gifted songwriter herself, she came to realize that there are certain songs and melodies which have haunted and fascinated her for many a year and that – now, more than ever - the musical pursuit of these might even offer her a deeper understanding of herself as an artist and person.
Borrowed And Blue, the title of the album, sets the framework for this CD. Blue being the mood this highly intimate trio format is operating in, lending the perfect foundation for the singer's irresistible timbre. And Borrowed pointing to the provenance of the material and its assimilation by Lisa Bassenge - which is not a process of just snatching and wresting the songs from their originators, or, as ever so often seems to be the case, dressing up some aged standards to a seasonable taste. Here a great singer is focusing on herself and her art, approaching these songs in a deeply unpretentious way, as if standing in front of a mirror, looking deep into her own eyes, while sharing her reflections without any reservations with the listeners. Despite not having written any of the songs on this record, Bassenge is revealing more of herself, than one might expect. While the selection of the songs may give testimony of her musical taste and socialization, their interpretation offers a deeper understanding of her artistic sensibilities.
Borrowed and Blue is not just a solo effort though. It is probably fair to say that Lisa Bassenge's musical companions are just as responsible for the staggering and sublime intensity of this record. The Danish and Berlin-based bass player Andreas Lang and Swedish pianist Jacob Karlzon have managed to create a stunning balance of soloistic brilliance, flashing up mainly in nuances and individual restraint, always supporting the singer. While they are setting a solid foundation for Lisa Bassenge's voice in a most congenial way, caressing and inspiring her, it is obvious, that their playing is informed by joy and delight. The dispensation of any kind of percussion may only have furthered the very special kind of magical poetry that piano, bass and voice have melded into.
These interpretations are far more than just cover versions or mere homages. There is a sense of reflective pause and consideration in this musical self portrait through the songs by others. An atmosphere of reducing things to their essence, as if the artist is adjusting the rear-view mirror while turning on the windscreen wipers at the same time, in order to get a clearer view forwards and backwards. “We already had been playing some concerts together”, Bassenge recaps, “and I realized how free I felt, playing with Jacob and Andreas. I never feel as if I have to prove anything to anybody in this constellation. It is a beautiful feeling to be accepted and sing without any fear. The essence of this album is: It just sounds great. Not more, not less. There may always be an aspect of transferring things from ones personal life into art. One may feel happy, while some of the darker sides of life still find their way on to a record. And would it not be terribly boring, if things would always just be 'happy, happy'?!”
And truly, when taking a closer listen, one realizes that Lisa Bassenge is channeling her very personal emotions through the subjects of these classic songs, lending them new and sometimes unexpected significance. Which leads us back to the inexplicable. Each song appears as a kind of window into certain aspects of life. One might not always immediately recognise what one sees – which is a good thing! These versions are reduced to the absolutely necessary and are not in need of any explanation. Lisa Bassenge very consciously refrains from offering the listeners any preconceived interpretations, instead inviting us to find our own specific readings of her music. And it is precisely the sparse and reduced instrumentation and arrangement of these songs, that open up a wider view, leaving more space for associations according to ones mood or even the time of day.
While all the songs on Borrowed and Blue are of the past, the album is very much in step with the times. There is a very natural and nonchalant ignorance of musical categories about the selection and execution of these songs by Lisa Bassenge and her musical companions. It seems quite irrelevant, if one wants to perceive this album as jazz, pop, folk, chanson, country, as all or none of the above. The songs stem from quite different epochs, genres and artistic personalities, among them George Gershwin, The Beatles, Patsy Cline, Ann Peebles, Billie Holiday, Bill Withers, Paul Simon, Hank Williams, Warren Zevon or Townes Van Zandt. The originals may sport quite different or even opposing sentiments, but by the virtue of artistic integrity and with the help of her attentive musical partners, Lisa Bassenge manages to weave a common and fascinating thread out of an seemingly all too diverse jumble. At the end of the day the provenance of the songs don´t really matter anyway – on Borrowed and Blue they are utterly and completely Lisa Bassenge!