The idea was as simple as follows in the beginning: Two experienced jazz musicians from Northern Europe would be on the same stage on Thursday night in Ankara, Turkey. Having listened to their many wonderful duo performances before in some albums, experienced some live performances from both and tried to sample some duo videos over internet, I was aware of the fact that the concert has a potential of being a special one. After approximately one and a half hour long duo concert of Lars Danielsson & Cæcilie Norby in Ankara Palace, two encores and minutes long standing ovations showed that it is not just me who has been impressed by the greatness of their eyes to eyes performance and moved to tears while Cæcilie is pushing the limits of singing and Lars is travelling on the edges of double bass and violoncello.
We have listened to a good selection of pieces from Cæcilie Norby's fantastic discography of more than ten albums during the concert. There were arrangements from Blue Note years as well as from last ACT works. All time favorites of Cæcilie Norby, Both Sides Now from Joni Mitchell, with whom Cæcilie has an obvious emotional connection in heart, Life on Mars from the incredible David Bowie, legendary jazz standard of Cole Porter, Love for Sale and the touching masterpiece of Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah were all performed in fantastic duo arrangements, some of which are transformed almost into a totally different composition. Besides, Girl Talk from the very first Blue Note album and the first piece of the album Queen of Bad Excuses, Cuban Cigars was on the set list. From the last two albums from ACT, Ravel's Dead Princess with lyrics of Cæcilie Norby, Wholly Earth of Abbey Lincoln were among the ones played from Arabesque and the incredible song of Barrett Strong & Norman Whitfield, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Trent Reznor's Hurt were chosen from Silent Ways.
From beginning to end Cæcilie's vocal performance was really one of a kind. It could become soft and strong at the same time and could travel between highs and lows so successfully that people in the audience were looking at each other from time to time like they were trying to say "how can she do that(!)". She has used two microphones one of which was almost flat with very little and short reverb while the other one is 3-4 seconds reverberated. She sometimes used these two together to create a magic sound inside the room like angels were accompanying her. Throughout the concert Cæcilie showed us many different ways to sing. She sang like whispering, she sang like an opera artist, she sounded like a percussion equipment and during her wonderful scat performances she was sometimes like a piano or a synthesizer. I think especially what she did in Love for Sale and Hallelujah were technically perfect and emotionally touching. Using her vocal more like an instrument, she could control the tension and the metronome in the music very well in a good harmony with her long time collaboration Lars. She even played the African instrument called Kalimba during Hurt which looks like an elaborated music box of a child and carries a very organic and strong tone.
In this duo performance, Lars Danielsson was on the stage with his cello and double bass as well as with an effect box lying next to his feet. Listening to a short solo cello performance from Lars was very special. He sometimes even played it as a bass, I think, with the help of his effects. I get used to hear his effects in such duo concerts which are producing higher reverberating tones in synchronization with Lars' bass. In this performance I have heard it again in Both Sides Now. I usually see Lars using the double bass as percussion but this time he intensely used its body like a cajon with tough hand strokes. When Lars was taking the bow in hand, both for bass and cello, I can feel that the audience are keeping their breathes.
Listening to Lars and Cæcilie in a duo configuration was a real life experience for a music listener considering their very deep connection and musical harmony. The overall sound was so organic that the music was playing from a single organism. It was musically incredible to see Lars Danielsson's instantaneous and online replies to Cæcilie Norby's vocal movements to change the direction of the music. Especially the encores Hallelujah and Cuban Cigars were among performances that Ankara audience will never forget. The fantastic Ankara Palace seems to be a great hall for such intimate and detailed performances with its warm atmosphere and good acoustic conditions.