Journalists on Lisette

Stravinsky is quoted as saying that music is emotion for the public, whereas for the composer it’s structure or, at very best, emotional strategy. The truth is, modern music, especially after Stravinsky, had developed an almost autistic fear of contact with the public. Even the most timid of concessions to the listener was considered the lewdest form of betrayal. That’s when jazz came into the picture. Its origins were seemingly humble, if not trivial, but at heart it was still an art form. Not of the lofty modernist sort, but of the type that gets our legs moving. And in spite of its many crowd pleasers, jazz still managed to restore the balance between head and hips which had been long forgotten since the 19th century. Sinatra can muster up all the feel-good vibes in his power, but they’re still not enough to make us throw our principles of good taste overboard. Lisette Spinnler, the newest great voice out of Switzerland, has little in common with the old Crooner and his standards. But like him, she makes music that’s accessible art. Since she first emerged some ten years ago, she’s managed to find a unique balance between intimacy and reserve. Her calm, and often melancholic style is organic, both warm and cool. Her songs are generally wordless or in languages she’s made up herself, yet her scat doesn’t have anything to with the old “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” style. Spinnler is a true “instrumental” singer, yet hers is a modest virtuosity. Like a pale but fine finish. She sees herself as part of the band. Her unearthly duets with the lyric tenor Alex Hendriksen deserve particular mention. The rhythm section: Patrice Moret on the bass, and Michi Schulz on percussion. The marvelous pianist Colin Vallon is the real mainstay: he makes it happen. He knows…and lets it show.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche No. 9, 23 February 2010


A new voice on the scene. Lisette Spinnler from Basel debuts with a traditional line-up on her album “Siawaloma”. But that’s pretty much the only thing traditional about this CD. The group considers itself a voluntary union of five headstrong individuals who realise that together they can scale even greater heights. One could very well define the soul of jazz in those terms. In keeping with that philosophy, the album contains loads of various influences: from world music to the great Coltrane-interpreter Pharaoh Sanders and legendary free jazz vocalist Jeanne Lee. Jeanne’s memory is especially evident as she was Susanne Abbuehl’s teacher, who in turn was Spinnler’s teacher at the University of Music in Basel.
But the ensemble doesn’t simply stick to role models; it makes music of its own. The first-rate rhythm section, especially the brilliant Michi Schulz, secures that adamant independence with a strong improvisation basis. That’s when Spinnler comes in, giving the background solid form without overdoing it. The group has done a particularly good job on “Kothbiro”, a good track for getting a little taste of what this CD has to offer.
Stephan Richter, Fono Forum, March 2010


A great new discovery: Lisette Spinnler from Basel thrills jazz fans with her new CD and its coherent concept: the voice as an equal instrument in the combo. Spinnler’s singing is bewitching and mostly scat-style. Not only are her vocal lines, but also her use of sounds and made-up languages masterful. What’s more, the album seethes with moody, often African sounds and plenty of chamber music jazz, worthy of the ECM label. The balance between Spinnler’s voice, Alex Hendriksen’s velvety tenor sax and Colin Vallon’s percussive piano is brilliant. Two thumbs up!
Gespi, Mannheimer Morgen, February 2010


Intercultural: The jazz and world-music singer Lisette Spinnler’s new album is entitled “Siawaloma”. Its motto is the maxim of Japanese poet Kyoshi Takahama: “Roots of a large summer tree / On a rock / Extend in all directions”. Her homeland of Switzerland as the rock, the world as her acoustic playground: that’s how one might interpret her philosophy.

She studied in Basel, received encouragement from George Gruntz, has won awards in Zurich and Montreux and has become internationally acclaimed in the world of jazz. Although she’s only one among many jazz singers in her country, Spinnler has been dubbed “Switzerland’s most promising voice” by Jazz’n’More magazine.

Now, together with her band “Siawaloma”, she’s brought out a new CD of the same name. It’s a name that stirs up images of Africa and, in fact, Spinnler incorporates many African elements into her album. But she doesn’t stop there. With a wide range of influences in her music, Spinnler is a vocalist who doesn’t want to be bogged down by existing languages. So she simply makes up new ones of her own.

Her voice is versatile, clear, sly, and even mischievous. Her vocals create a very personal world of expression and her album leads us through it with dramatic energy. “Durban’s Township” is a long hymn in which the accompanists breath in unison with her, while her jagged scat in “L’Hiver d’Après” leaves the listener stunned. Nevertheless, the tracks are predominantly calm throughout the CD. In “Peace Piece”, for example, she allures the listener with smooth phrases and then leads him into a cool state of contemplation with spiritually charged mantras, with Alex Hendriksen’s mellow accompaniment on the sax. “You” is a daydream that starts off like a polyphonic gospel number, only to saunter into a soul jazz ballad.

Culturally speaking, “Kothbiro” is even more complex: minimalistic accompaniment suggests oriental flair, while the singer’s vocables resemble some mysterious African language (in fact, it’s Spinnler’s arrangement of a piece by Kenyan musician Ayub Ogada). Colin Vallon conjures up further images of Africa, taking folkloric themes reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim and weaving them into a fabric of complex improvisation. Spinnler’s multicultural journey continues with a Turkish melody, shrouded in woe and the sombre sound of flutes. The listener is almost startled when Spinnler returns to a real language in “Breeze”, but as one might expect, her sensual and breathy English is also remarkable.

Spinnler’s powerful, mature voice is a great gain. We can’t wait to see her back on stage with another one of her intense performances.
Badische Zeitung, (print + online), February 2010


To call this girl singer would just be a plain understatement. Lisette Spinnler, a teacher at the University of Music in Basel, conjures up magical atmospheres using unusually colourful syllables and sounds. She may have a slight Alpine touch, but when it comes down to it, she’s a phenomenal jazz artist who knows how to phrase in and out of pulsing backgrounds like no other.

Her accompanying quartet “Siawaloma” emboldens her distinctive voice to go to new levels of intensity. A true experience.
Stereoplay, February 2010


Lisette Spinnler and her Siawaloma quintet brought a touch of Africa to the stage. Yet, this is only a fraction of the musical range covered by these musicians. What really gives this spirited and versatile vocalist the edge is her highly original scatting. Teasingly, her vocals seem to come from an imaginary voice. As her hand flutters, she punctuates her performance with the spoken word, with whispers, with clicks. The band follows her through jazz standards like Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” and Dave Holland’s “Mazad”, before segueing into the high drama of a flute-flecked Turkish folk song. The African vibe in Spinnler’s performance is somewhat subliminal – a feverish bass riff or a meditative-dreamlike evocation of a landscape.
Stefan Franzen, Basler Zeitung, May 2009


Not only the eyes but also the ears of the audience bear witness to an almost mystical happening…after only a couple of beats the diffident and quiet young woman before them is transformed into a shamen, into an otherwordly medium that comes from deep within which finds expression in the sinuous movements of her hands. When she sings, Lisette Spinnler is firmly in the here and now, her entire body becoming an instrument that begins to sway and quiver, constantly changing like the voice itself: a voice which is tender yet plangent, a voice which at times breaks into a playful cackling or the mock-serious shrillness of a fishwife, a voice which Lisette Spinnler uses to convey the vibrant polymorphic nature of life itself.
Selma Mahlknecht,, February 2008


The audience (…) is swept away by the open song structures of Lisette Spinnler, Nicole Jo and BraffOesterRohrer. A couple of free jazz-style progressions are followed by a painfully beautiful Turkish folk ballad, leaving the audience rapt, in high spirits and content.
Michael Hasler, Thurgauer Zeitung, September 2008


What makes Lisette Spinnler such a special artist is her “childlike” enthusiasm, directness and occasional playfulness, combined with a natural, yet incredibly refined ease and superb ability to shift seamlessly from one key to another. (…)
Unlike many of her contemporaries who seem to be there more for their glamorous looks than any real discernible musical talent and who allow even the most anodyne rhythm section to shine, Spinnler sees herself as one of the band, as one improviser among many. As the title of her debut album “In Between” proclaims, her musical style straddles classic jazz singing with her own personal twist and scatting. Yet, unlike Fitzgerald and the third-rate Fitzgerald wannabes, improvisation for Lisette Spinnler is not an opportunity to embark on a virtuoso ego trip.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche, November 2004


Lisette Spinnler is more than a simple jazz singer, she is an exponent of the art of noises. With a performance peppered with screeches, whistles and clicks, pauses, breaks, changing inflections, whispers and murmuring, her style is reminiscent of the Portuguese jazz vocalist Maria João, albeit less ethereal and undoubtedly more accessible. The brilliant groove of the funk-filled “Smile” elicited a burst of spontaneous applause from the audience.
Jürg Weibel, Basler Zeitung, May 2003


New album:
Duo Christoph Stiefel and Lisette Spinnler

Release: February 2012