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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Tuesday, 25 April 2017 22:09

Kadi Vija and Lucas Dann - Ugly Beauty

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Monk would be proud.

This new album, released last month on Texicalli, is a true unique find. Ugly Beauty runs for only 33 minutes, but consists of ten tracks full of intensity, vitality and sheer abstract art! 

Kadi Vija on vocals and Lucas Dann on piano are just what jazz needs right now; this young Dutch duo have put together a little gem honouring the great virtuoso of improvisation, Thelonious Monk, celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth!

Kadi Vija, defines herself as a vocal instrumentalist. She has studied at numerous prestigious institutions such as Berklee College of Music, the Conservatory van Amsterdam and Sibelius Academy, which make her, in current terms, a modernist, albeit one who is not afraid to look back to jazz history.

Lucas Dann, despite his young age, has a mature grip on playing the jazz piano. Dann has studied in New York with the highly respected Fred Hersch, and is currently studying in Amsterdam. 

Ugly Beauty, recorded in Amsterdam by Ohad Arama, mixed by Kevin Fallis and mastered by Teemu Vänskä, is an incredible project involving people and countries across the globe. It is an album to be treasured and listened to with attention, care and respect.

I particularly enjoyed Ugly Beauty, Monk’s Mood and Boo Boo’s Birthday (the first and the third from the great 1967 Straight, No Chaser album); they provide examples of Kadi’s incredible scatting and Lucas’s rhythmic piano playing.  

On listening to the album, I decided to ask Kadj a few questions, whose answers further re-emphasized the duo’s perfect combo and natural aspirations.


1. Why the title Ugly Beauty

Lucas told me that the title of the album should be Ugly Beauty. I said ok and when I started to analyze it afterwards, it made perfect sense looking at the material on the album.

2. What does Monk mean to you?

Monk as a composer means elegant intelligence for me. I love intelligence. His compositions are very logical, so brilliant. I had sung Ask Me Now for a long time and it has been one of my favourite tunes to sing. The first time I sung it with Lucas, the tune opened up for me even more deeply. That was the moment I knew I wanted to play this kind of music with Lucas. 

3. How long did it take to compose the album?

I met Lucas in Autumn 2015 in Amsterdam. I had this idea to record an album with different duo settings, like me + drummer, me + bass, me + horn, me + piano etc. I asked Lucas to be part of this idea. Ultimately I didn't get to the other types of duos because the one with Lucas was so fulfilling that I decided to make the whole album just with him. And I think Lucas was the one who suggested that the album should include only Monk's music. So we practiced for a couple of months and recorded the album in April 2016!

4. Scatting is not for the faint-hearted, so how did this idea come to you for the album?

Improvising for me is more natural than singing with lyrics. Very rarely do I enjoy singing with lyrics. I am more into the melodies, the musical communication with others. I have been feeling that way for many years now, so not singing the lyrics but just the melodies through scatting was a very normal thing to do on this album.

5. What does jazz mean to you? 

Jazz for me means freedom. It means excitement, fear, happiness, frustration, challenge, reward. I feel jazz through my whole body, whether it's in the extremely deep swing or extremely rich, beautiful and sometimes dissonant harmony. 



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