Elisabeth Lohninger,
The Only Way Out is Up
(Lofish, 2006)

Elisabeth Lohninger, a New School Jazz Department faculty member in New York, has released a new CD, The Only Way Out is Up, which is, not surprisingly, a jazzy musical offering from the Big Apple.

While this fare is not my normal preference, it is what I might expect to hear if I went to a jazz club or lounge. The music is heavy on piano and saxophone backed by typical bass and drum brushing. The sound is sometimes improvisational in nature, and Elisabeth's vocals fit right in when she leaves the lyrics behind and trumpets out complementary (or maybe random, in some cases) vocalizations.

"Mirage" is the opening track. It has a droning, dreamy quality about it. The tempo is rather slow and repetitive. The lyrics are about two becoming one -- at least for a while, before the coming dawn. This track is one of a handful of songs that are over 7 minutes in length. The majority of it is instrumental. Even towards the end, when Elisabeth joins back in after a several-minute hiatus, she uses her voice as another instrument before switching back to words in order to repeat what she sang earlier.

The title track is about how life can kick your butt when you least expect it. You might think everything is going perfectly when suddenly the bottom drops out from under you. What are your choices? You have to get back up or what is the point of living. This is one of those jazz tunes dominated by the saxophone -- at least when Elisabeth isn't singing. There are a couple of mean little saxophone solos to listen out for.

The Only Way Out is Up closes with "Free to Fall." This track starts out perhaps a little more of a mix between pop and jazz. It sounds like a drum machine is playing in the background and the keyboards give the piece a more electronic sound. There is an interesting keyboard solo in the middle. What makes this track stand out even more is that there is a little chorus of sorts towards the end where the singers keep repeating "I am free. I am free ... I am free to be." The song is about falling, but that part is somewhat uplifting.

There is a picture of Elisabeth on the inside CD cover in which she is standing with a group I'm guessing makes up her backup band. She looks like such a petite, little thing, I have to say I was surprised that she has such a deep, powerful voice. I was further caught offguard when I found out from the promo material that she was raised in Austria. I never discerned an accent with her English! Maybe that is because she received a master's degree in music and English language and literature.

Speaking of Elisabeth's backup musicians, they consist of Walter Fischbacher on piano and keyboards, Chris Tarry playing bass, and Hari Ganglberger brushing the drums. On select tracks, you can hear Mino Cinelu handling percussion and Donny McCaslin on saxophones.

The Only Way Out is Up is Elisabeth's second solo CD. She has a very nice voice, if you like altos. The jazz is a mix of standard or traditional along with improvisational. Out of the 10 tracks, three are covers ("Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," "Be a Lion," "Falling Grace") while the rest are originals.

I am not enamored with this CD because this isn't my preferred type of music. But I could see those who are drawn to this genre appreciating the talent Elisabeth expresses.

review by
Wil Owen

10 November 2007

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