Ester Wiesnerova is a Slovakian singer-songwriter who is swinging for the fences on her ambitious debut album, Blue Journal. When I first received this in the mail, I immediately thought wait, is this just a journal? Is there music? I had to dig deeply into this handsome little blue book to find the CD, hiding in a slot toward the back of this collection of lyrics, photographs and poetry.
Blue Journal is referred to as a jazz album in the liner notes, and a thread of traditional jazz genres does flow through these 11 original compositions, but Ester Wiesnerova isn’t restrained by categories. She’s chosen a unique style of accompaniment–Sam Knight on sax, Kan Yanabe on percussion, Michal Selep on bass and, most interestingly, Charles Overton on a very prominent harp. This last ingredient is what gives Blue Journal such a rich feel, something that pushes her songs into a more progressive realm.
Without Overton, you can see those jazz foundations a little more clearly, such as the Latin and Caribbean influences in songs like “Burrito.” But with that gorgeous harp, as well as the clear and emotional voice of Ester Wiesnerova, the lyrics start to float toward Joni Mitchell territory, and the musical arrangements seem inspired by the complex yet gentle work of Van Dyke Parks.
Ester Wiesnerova has more on her mind than producing a lush, sylvan landscape of sound. Blue Journal is about her thoughts, all of them, dealing with Covid-19 and the instability in Eastern Europe and ultimately, during an extended lockdown, her own musical heritage. Despite the fact that she learned jazz composition at Berklee and the New England Conservatory, it’s about her discovering her mother’s record collection back in Slovakia, applying life experiences to her songwriting, and delivering an original and deeply considered album.