‘Love Is Real’ by Viktoria Tolstoy [Shining On You, 2004 ACT]
The great-great-grand-daughter of writer Leo Tolstoy, Viktoria Tolstoy had been a jazz singer in Scandinavia for over a decade when she recorded Shining on You. Tolstoy has a beautiful voice and can hold notes for a long period perfectly in-tune. This outing really does not give her much of a chance to sing jazz for the emphasis is on her interpretations of the lyrics. Her longtime musical partner Esbjörn Svensson wrote all of the music but, although some of the themes are memorable, it is the intelligent words and Tolstoy’s straightforward interpretations (which often crossover into pop and folk music) that are of greatest interest. Highlights include “Upside Out,” “Equilibrium” and “Things That Happen” although each song has its own interesting plot. There are touches of jazz provided by the rhythm section, a few Nils Landgren trombone solos, and a guest spot (on “No Regrets”) for Toots Thielemans on harmonica. Shining on You is worth exploring by listeners who do not demand that singers always improvise.