Aleka: Person I Knew review – Romanian singer recruits who’s-who for fine debut

The Dublin-based vocalist displays courage, confidence and technical skill

Person I Knew
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Artist: Aleka
Genre: Jazz
Label: Self-Released

For her first full-length album, Romanian-born, Dublin-resident vocalist Aleka has taken the road less travelled, recruiting a multi-generational band of heavyweights who each add their own layer of creativity and raise the results far above the usual vocal debut fare.

Legendary Dutch drummer Eric Ineke and internationally respected Irish bassist Ronan Guilfoyle provide glorious grooves and creative disruption, while leading Irish saxophonist Michael Buckley adds his muscular, melodic voice on top. But at the heart of Person I Knew is the deep understanding between Aleka and her longstanding musical partner, guitarist Chris Guilfoyle.

The six tracks include the guitarist’s deft arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s gorgeous Iris, with poetic lyrics from Aleka, and a bravura wordless treatment of the Bill Evans tune which gives the album its title, while Monk’s classic Round Midnight shifts gear from a dreamy guitar and voice opening to a hard-swinging blowout from the band.

It takes courage and confidence, not to mention technical skill, to hold your own in such company, but Aleka’s soft, crystalline tone, and her willingness to place it in such a challenging setting, mark her out as a singer to watch, and make for an impressive debut that will satisfy jazz fans and casual listeners alike.

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a musician, writer and director