Intimate lyrics, soulful arrangements and a country-affine jazz band: Hannah Köpf’s “Cinnamon” is an Americana jazz album, made in Cologne.
Hannah Köpf is not Norah Jones. But the musical cosmos that the Cologne singer / songwriter has created on her fourth album “Cinnamon” does not have to hide in comparison to the singer from the other side of the Atlantic. Hannah Köpf is interpreting Folk, New Orleans Soul, Americana, Jazz and Southern Country in such a natural way, as if she had never listened to anything else as a child than to these deeply American genres.
Köpf has devoted more time than ever to the lyrics, while especially focusing on US artists. “Writing is hard work, a real craft,” the 1980 born singer states. In attempts to compose in the style of certain songwriting styles, she created a tribute to the largely unknown singer / songwriter Judee Sill: “Fools and Fallen Angels”. The line “Cheer the fool while the angels fall” is to be understood as a direct allusion to acting US politicians who ignore moderating voices.
“I want to arouse emotions with my lyrics,” says Köpf. “But also write politically without letting the listener notice it immediately. One wonders: in what kind of world does my daughter have to grow up? “Hannah Köpf has been a mother for two years and her highly personally colored texts have been shaped by that. “Golden Leaves” takes the perspective of her daughter, and how she may later think about her parents. The title song “Cinnamon” describes the Proustian Madeleine moment of the singer / songwriter: the smell of cinnamon instantly transports her into her childhood and into her grandmother’s kitchen.
Life, death and family – these themes already dominated the highly praised album “Lonely Dancer”, about which the Jazz Thing wrote: “These songs could get a place in the songbook of Emmylou Harris.” And again, the album’s cover was lovingly designed by the artist Tamina Duscha, proving continuity with its predecessor.
Melancholy is gladly emphasized, a wistfulness that lies in these subtle texts. The brilliant vocals of Hannah Köpf, her ability to effortlessly cross genre boundaries with her voice. Everything is in the right place. But it is equally remarkable how dynamic, forceful and soulful these songs are. In short – with a level of skill rarely heard in bands with such a limited production budget. As early as 2015, Köpf started recording with her partner Tim Dudek in his own studio. Dudek, a trained drummer who tours with jazz aces like Axel Fischbacher as well as with his own pop band Luciel, composed the music and was responsible for production, recording and mixing.
“He is my sharpest critic and never minces words. But in the end, unfortunately, he is always right, “laughs Köpf. Partnership and professional conflicts provided the material for “You were right again”, in which Köpf sings openly about tantrums and her own weaknesses. The duo is supported by a band of well-known musicians such as guitarist Hanno Busch or pianist Sebastian Sternal. Köpf: “These are jazzers who also play Country. They can instantly create a feeling from their gut, you do not have to explain what you want to hear.“ With dobro, fiddle and slide guitar “Cinnamon“ is serving up the classic Nashville country cutlery.
It is this attention to detail that makes the album so special. The delicate cello by Nathan Bontrager, or the tenor saxophone by Denis Gäbel, who can be heard on half of the songs, without pushing himself in the foreground.
In addition to Joni-Mitchell-inspired ballads such as “Golden Leaves” and the theme song, the duo Köpf / Dudek has composed some noteworthy up-tempo songs: “There When You Need Me” with the finest soul, New Orleans style – hand claps, swinging piano and triumphantly bluesy wind arrangements, which come from the bigband-experienced Dietmar Mensinger (Tom Gaebel). Ray Charles sends his regards. The optimistic “Paper Boat” ramping up from an introverted blues to a gospelish, swaying dance song. “Velvet Sky” ends the album intimately, only orchestrated with the virtuously plucked guitar by Busch and Dudek. “For the first time, I am completely happy with an album. Everything fits, with every song. “All killer, no filler – the studied jazz singer Hannah Köpf has created her opus Magnum Americana.