A Listener's Guide to Rebekka Bakken
Updated: Mar 22
2020 marks Rebekka Bakken's 20th anniversary as a recording artist – and what amazing twenty years it has been. From her early records with Wolfgang Muthspiel to her solo debut "The Art Of How To Fall", from later folk oriented works to her big band interpretation of Tom Waits’ back catalogue: The Norwegian singer/songwriter with a vocal range of three octaves has created a remarkable body of work. This list does not include her guest spots on other artist’s records.
Rebekka Bakken/Wolfgang Muthspiel "Daily Mirror" (2000, Material Records)
Rebekka Bakken's album debut, released 2000 on Wolfgang Muthspiel's label Material Records. It features Brian Blade on drums, Scott Colley on bass and saxophone player Chris Cheek. Here Bakken's incredibly versatile voice is showcased on record for the first time. Starting with her soothing composition "It's Ok", the material reaches crazy heights especially with brilliant songs like "Nowhere" and "Drawing Lines" (both composed by Muthspiel and Bernd Hagg).
Rebekka Bakken/Wolfgang Muthspiel "Beloved" (2002, Material Records)
The second and, at least so far, last album by Bakken/Muthspiel – not counting the EP "Daily Mirror Reflected (Remixes)". While the debut album featured a full band, "Beloved" shows the Norwegian singer and Austrian Guitarist as a duo. Beautiful ballads, Norwegian traditionals, Muthspiel's intricate playing and Bakken's soulful vocals shape this album. Plus, Ms. Bakken also did more songwriting for this album.
Julia Hülsmann Trio with Rebekka Baken "Scattering Poems" (2003, Act Music)
"Scattering Poems" by German pianist Julia Hülsmann marks Bakken's third album appearance. This record sets poems by American poet E.E. Cummings (1894-1962) to music – performed by (on) piano, upright bass and drums. One more venture into Jazz, maybe the only Jazz album in a classical sense that Bakken did.
"The Art Of How To Fall" (2003, Universal Music)
And then it was time to do her own thing. "The Art Of How To Fall" came out in 2003. Rebekka Bakken had arrived in Vienna – yet the opening lines of her solo debut reminisced about her years in New York City: "As I was walking down third avenue / As I was feeling too much like a woman", she sang in "If Only". "The Art Of How To Fall" is full of remarkable, melancholic and catchy compositions – often times dealing with change, loss and letting go. Highlights include "If Only", "Say Goodbye To What Is Gone", "Cover Me With Snow" and the atmospheric, immensely beautiful closer"“Daylight Is Short In Fall".
"Is That You?" (2005, Verve/Universal)
On "Is That You?" Bakken continued where she left off two years earlier with her debut record. The instrumentation is also similar to "The Art Of How To Fall": Drums played with brushes, upright bass, guitars, piano (as well as sometimes saxophone). The arrangements are sparse, but create a dense atmosphere, the songs are sublime, but catchy and accessible – and Bakken’s voice is as gorgeous as ever.
"I Keep My Cool" (2006, Universal)
With "I Keep My Cool" the arrangements grew a little bigger. Choruses get elevated by string sections, "Everything Can Change" even has its own orchestra version. And yes, Bakken kept her cool on this one, too.
"Morning Hours" (2009, Boutique/Universal)
"Morning Hours" began to dig deeper into the genre of folk. It seems the artist felt more at home in the spheres of Tom Waits and likeminded songwriters and storytellers than in the Jazz scene anyway. Quite fitting that one of her sidemen on this record was the great Marc Ribot, guitar player extraordinaire known from his work with Waits. Thus the piano played a far less prominent role than in the past, "Morning Hours" was much more guitar centered. It suited her songs well.
"September" (2011, Boutique/Universa)
"September" is a record somewhere between Folk and Country. Apart from her own compositions, the album featured cover versions of Alphaville's "Forever Young" and Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler”.
"Little Drop Of Poison" (2014, Emarcy Records/Universal)
Rebekka Bakken goes Tom Waits. Together with the hr-Bigband, she interprets songs of the great American songwriter, including songs like "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis", "I Wish I Was In New Orleans", "San Diego Serenade" and "Time".
"Most Personal" (2016, Emarcy Records/Universal)
A best-of record, looking back at the last 13 years of recording music under her own name. "Most Personal" also contained five new tracks.
"Things You Leave Behind" (2018, Okeh/Sony Music)
The "New York, Part 2"-Album. After having lived there in the late 1990s/early 2000s, Bakken decided to move back to New York in the years before this record. She wanted to relive the old feeling, but instead found a city that did not feel the same anymore. “Things You Leave Behind” is based on that experience.
"Winter Nights" (2020, Okeh/Sony Music)
With "Winter Nights", Rebekka Bakken released a Christmas record. Besides a couple of songs written by her (such as "This Year Is Different", dealing with the loss of her father), she also interprets well known classics such as The Pogues’ "Fairytale Of New York", "Silent Night" and, yes, Wham!’s "Last Christmas" – reducing the latter to its sad core.