Joanna Wallfisch: The Origin of Adjustable Things


There is today a revelatory voice afoot in the world of independent vocal jazz, and that divine gift belongs to Joanna Wallfisch. From a family of musicians and herself a Guildhall School of Music Masters graduate, this captivating British-born vocalist’s sophomore record, whimsically and intriguingly entitled The Origin of Adjustable Things and available on Sunnyside Records, finds her in tandem with French-American jazz pianist extraordinaire Dan Tepfer. Their significant individual talents, evident mutual respect and artistic compatibility make for a sublimely meshed duo and an album of surprising lushness that casts a sublime spell and weaves listeners tightly into its artistic fabric.

This tantalizing twelve-song collection – of which eight are originals by Joanna – opens with a perfect invitation into her world; “This Is How You Make Me Feel” reveals her to be a possessor of true jazz chops as she exhibits some very tasteful scatting. With a music box-like quality to the piano part, the song and its arrangement are both playful and dazzlingly creative.

Penned following her move across the pond to NYC, both “Satin Grey” and “Brighton Beach” beautifully highlight her clever word play and creative approach to painting a picture with sounds and words. The 12th and final track, a cover of the Jimmy Scott standard “Never Let Me Go,” is a sterling example of Ms. Wallfisch’s use and understanding of space. She utters the lyric, as throughout the album, with purity and a prayer-like quality. Dan Tepfer’s beautifully thought-filled and delicate playing is masterfully demonstrated here.

Another song worthy of special mention is a plaintive and extremely well arranged cover of the Radiohead tune “Creep.” This addition adds a surprising layer of intrigue, particularly for a jazz album. The impressive time signature mastery alone is worth a listen or three.

“Satellite,” the third track and featured listening selection, is a glistening example of Joanna’s creative arranging, incorporating vocalese harmony and hints of a vocoder being layered into the arrangement. This tune is also to be featured in a soon-to-be-released silver screen film.

Some reviewers have compared her to the likes of Joni Mitchell, and while that comparison is apt, Ms. Wallfisch is truly in a category all her own. Her crystalline clear voice is deeply communicative, honest and full of vulnerability. She both sings and writes like a poet. This album, laced with beauty, love and brim-filled with mystery, unequivocally comes with my highest recommendation.

Joanna Wallfisch and Dan Tepfer at the Atelier de la Main d'Or, Paris, France