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Elisabeth Kontomanou

Noted for her strong and textured voice, Elisabeth Kontomanou got her start as a jazz vocalist and composer in her native France. She had worked with the likes of Michel Legrand and toured internationally by the time she released her eponymous debut album in 1993. She spent the mid-'90s through the mid-2000s in New York City, a stretch that included 2004's Midnight Sun. Kontomanou made her Montreal International Jazz Festival debut in 2006, around the time she relocated to Stockholm. In 2009, Siren Song: Live at Arsenal was recorded with the Lorraine National Orchestra, and her tenth album, 2014's Amoureuse, was her first French-language set. Born in Sète, France in 1961, Elisabeth Kontomanou's biggest vocal influences coming up included Flora Purim, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mahalia Jackson. In 1986, she founded the jazz quartet Conversation, which went on to win the Défense Jazz Festival competition. She eventually recorded her first solo album, Elisabeth Kontomanou, with pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, bassist Thomas Bramerie, drummer Pierre Dayraud, and Stéphane Belmondo, on bugle. It was issued by European Music Productions in 1993. Kontomanou moved to New York City in 1995. Her second long-player, Embrace, arrived on SteepleChase in 1999 and led to a Django D'Or nomination. Hands & Incantation, with Pilc, followed in 2000, and she recorded her Nocturne label debut, 2004's Midnight Sun, with Bramerie, pianist Stefan Rusconi, and drummer Ali Jackson. It included standards by composers like Cole Porter and Jerome Kern as well as the original song "All Alone," by Kontomanou, Bramerie, and A. Olitt. In 2006, she was the featured singer on pianist Franck Amsallem's album A Week in Paris: A Tribute to Billy Strayhorn and issued her own Waitin' for Spring. The latter included appearances by, among others, guitarist John Scofield, pianist Laurent Coq, and her son, drummer Donald Kontomanou. (Her other son, Gustav Karlström, is a composer.) That year, she also performed at the Montreal International Jazz Festival and was awarded the Victoires du Jazz for vocal jazz. Kontomanou was based in Stockholm by the time she recorded her sixth album, 2007's Back to My Groove, with musicians including pianist Orrin Evans, percussionist Leon Parker, and her son, Donald. Brewin' the Blues followed on Nocturne a year later, and a live album recorded with the Lorraine National Orchestra, Siren Song: Live at Arsenal, appeared on Plus Loin Music in 2009. A collaboration with pianist Geri Allen, Secret of the Wind arrived on Outnote and Effendi Records in 2012. In 2014, she returned to the Montreal International Jazz Festival and released her first French-language album, Amoureuse (Plus Loin). Though Kontomanou didn't record for the rest of the decade, she continued to perform regularly, including shows with a regular quartet that includes Pilc and duo tours with pianist Laurent Courthaliac.
© Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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