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Karita Mattila — Fever
22 Dec 2008

Karita Mattila — Fever

Ondine provides a treasure of a booklet for Fever, Karita Mattila's traversal of some standards from the so-called "Great American Songbook," plus two Brazilian numbers.

Karita Mattila — Fever

Fever band & String section; How Many Sisters Vocal Trio; Kirmo Lintinen, conductor; Karita Mattila, soprano.

$18.49  Click to buy

Glamour shots present her most seductive looks, while pictures snapped at the concert where the live recording took place venture into camp territory, especially the enormous white fur floor-length jacket that apparently provided any warmth the stage lights couldn’t project. A short essay serves as a lovely example of over-the-top PR prose, establishing how Ms. Mattila’s “idea of singing a jazz programme” became a “vision {that} was finally realized.” All this while she “has been living in the USA a lot recently.” Your reviewer has been living a lot recently in the USA too. Small world.

Another note explains the history of Tin Pan Alley for us, then provides brief commentary on each song’s composer (“Cole Porter was a wealthy man of the world…”). All that’s missing is an extended list of personal “thank you’s” from the artist to make Fever fit right in with the typical pop release self-celebration. Almost in compensation, this note is found at the end: “The author of this text, Markku Piri, has initiated and developed the artistic concept of this Fever project in close collaboration with Karita Mattila. Piri also acted as set and costume designer for the shows.” You go, Piri.

The history of classical singers and popular song is long but not particularly fabled. This is not Karita’s first delving into this territory. On another Ondine release, Karita Live!, she did both great arias, such as “Vissi d”arte,” and also very enjoyable run-throughs of lighter material, such as “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” On Fever, Ms. Mattila does try out a few jazz licks, with some carefully rehearsed scatting in a couple places. She seems more comfortable singing just behind the beat, and she allows herself to play with the melody lines from time to time, generally in a tasteful fashion. Peggy Lee seems to have been her model, as indicated by songs associated with Ms. Lee such as the title track and “Black Coffee.”

Ms. Lee’s reputation can only be burnished by comparison to Ms. Mattila’s singing here, but Karita does fine overall. On holding her voice back, some of the top range loses color and is not always in tune; the body of her range sounds very good indeed. Her English comes very close to being idiomatic, with some flat “r” sounds being the occasional giveaway. Your reviewer can’t evaluate her Portuguese, but both “O Pato” and “Corcovado” get enthusiastic performances. The arrangements tend to be very light jazz indeed. “Stormy Weather” in particular gets a most bizarre orchestral prelude before slipping into a more expected blues shuffle.

A vocal trio with the odd name How Many Sisters backs up Ms. Mattila. No Vandellas they.

Ms. Mattila’s greatness as a singer has long been established in the opera world. If this recording brought pleasure to her and the enthusiastic crowds at the live concerts, then “this Fever project” is worthwhile. But don’t let PETA catch her in that fur…

Chris Mullins

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