Anna Mjöll is an Icelandic jazz singer and songwriter.
“Iceland’s Anna Mjöll grew up in one of her country’s leading musical families, eventually representing Iceland in the famed Eurovision Song Contest. She then joined the band of Julio Iglesias, touring worldwide before setting out on her own career as a jazz singer and songwriter. Mjöll has quietly built a following around L.A. over the past two years, becoming one of the only vocalists to be a regular at the classy Vibrato supper club. Mjöll’s striking beauty and often-breathtaking dresses combine with singing talent that’s recently drawn praise from jazz luminaries including George Duke, Don Heckman and Dave Weckl. Add Mjöll’s penchant for offbeat humor and a running dialogue with the audience, and you might find yourself wondering how long it’ll be before she’s headlining somewhere in Las Vegas — Sir Tom Jones is already a frequent guest at her shows in town.”
-Tom Meek, LA WeeklyMjöll released a CD, The Shadow Of Your Smile, containing a mix of Icelandic songs and jazz standards. The CD included a number of notable musicians including Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Carpenter, Don Grusin, Neil Stubenhaus and Luis Conte, and was voted one of the top 5 female vocal jazz CDs of 2009 at Arnaldo DeSouteiro’s Jazz Station. In 2009, Mjöll was voted one of the top 5 jazz singers of the year by DeSouteiro’s Jazz Station.
In 2010, she released her first solo Christmas CD, Christmas JaZZmaZ.
The CD has original arrangements by Ólafur Gaukur and musicians including Vinnie Colaiuta, Luis Conte, Ólafur Gaukur, Don Grusin, Dave Carpenter and Charlie Bisharat, and was voted one of the top 10 female vocal jazz CDs of 2010 at Arnaldo DeSouteiro’s Jazz Station.
In 2010, Mjöll was voted one of the 10 best female jazz singers of the year along with Diana Krall and others by DeSouteiro’s Jazz Station, and Christmas JaZZmaZ was voted Christmas CD of the Year.
Mjöll currently resides in Los Angeles. Among other venues she performs regularly at the world-renowned Jazz club Herb Alpert’s Vibrato in Bel Air, California where her shows continue to sell out long in advance. She just recorded her third CD, “Live at Vibrato” to be released by Iceland’s Tónaljón Records in spring 2014.
“Sunday night, Santa Monica. Last Sunday night I was having a really good time, sitting in the Baked Potato, halfway between Hollywood and the Valley, and listening to jazz singer Anna Mjoll perform with her really good band. I wish I could be doing the same thing tonight, but it’s a much longer drive to her gig. She’s playing in Reykjavik. Yeah, Iceland. She’s closer to the ocean there… than she was in the Valley. But she’s a lot closer to the Arctic Circle too.
Why in the world would a jazz singer book herself into a small club in an island nation with one fifth the population of the San Fernando Valley?
Because she’s home for the holidays.
Anna Mjoll is not much of what you usually picture as a jazz singer. Few of her performance photos show her in a dress. More likely you’ll get what I saw at the Potato: strategically very torn jeans, punkish spiked bracelets, stylish “armlet” tattoo, leather half-vest and a thin leather headband holding in place her long golden (really, really golden) locks, white-toed black tennies (but no candy cane-striped knee socks this time), and centerfold-class beauty and figure. Her idea of patter is to regale you with odd and gory anecdotes (decapitation, burger breath). I wonder if she dresses up a little at home? Keeps the stories a little more conventional, with mom and dad in the crowd?
Mjoll seems very comfortable on stage, like she was born there (almost true), comfortable in her own skin and very comfortable with her material and her inimitable delivery of it. She has a barely detectable accent, but it does make her sound just a little different from everyone else, in a charming way.
Her band was absolutely stellar. She always seems to attract really good players. (“Jazzmaz” features an enviable cast in Vinnie Colaiuta, Don Grusin, Luis Conte, Charlie Bisharat, and the late and very missed Dave Carpenter, as well as Mjoll’s talented father Olafur Gaukur producing, arranging and on guitar.) At the Spud she had Mike Miller on guitar, John Gilutin on keys, Ian Martin on bass and Gerry Brown on drums, impressive chops-meisters and cookin’ this night. A real treat was provided when Reggie Hamilton sat in for a few on bass, even though he had literally just flown in from Europe and went straight to the club. His solo excursions alone were worth the price of admission.
Her show was very similar to the excellent one I saw a few weeks earlier at Charlie O’s, including the stories, but it nagged at me that there was some missing piece this night. Then she gets to the very last number, “Blue Skies” (except for an ill-advised bowing to a persistent request for “Route 66” – ya gotta end high and leave ‘em wanting more). She goes to town with energized scatting throughout, and it jumps out that this was the one, where Anna Mjoll was in her element and shining. She had done some scatting in previous numbers, but not much, not as much as at Charlie O’s. I don’t think it was just the scatting that made the difference, but it was definitely tied to that.
You don’t listen to Christmas music for weeks before the day now, do you? The last week before Christmas is prime time for me, enough to get the spirit but not to OD. So the timing is perfect to download Anna Mjoll’s “Christmas Jazzmaz,” at CDBaby.com. I like the last four songs the best because they’re sung in Icelandic, and the “Santa Baby” is probably the sexiest and most fun version you’ll ever hear.”
Music Forums Moderator
Christmas CD of the Year
Anna Mjöll: “Christmas Jazzmaz” (Tónaljón) 2010
Music performance: *****
Sound quality: *****
Featuring: Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Ólafur Gaukur (acoustic & electric guitars), Dave Carpenter (bass), Don Grusin (piano & keyboards), Luis Conte (percussion) and Charlie Bisharat (violin).
“In a few words? OK. The most charming and enchanting songstress in the current jazz scene has released the best “Christmas album” of this century.
Really? Yes, absolutely!!! Throughout the years, dozens of jazz artists have issued Christmas projects. Most recently, back in 2005, Diana Krall released the excellent “Christmas Songs” CD, with a big budget production directed by Tommy LiPuma and the impeccable backing of the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. No surprises to be found, though. The typical Christmas tunes with nice vocals and predictable arrangements.
Five years later we get Anna Mjöll’s “Christmas Jazzmaz.” What a difference! Surprises abound on each track. Backed by a small group, with smart scores by producer Ólafur Gaukur (who happens to be Anna’s father, and is a guitarist whose touch and phrasing on the acoustic instrument reminds me of Luiz Bonfa’s approach on the 12-string guitar), the LA-based Icelandic Jazz Princess delivers fresh and creative performances of such songs as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride,” “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas.”
Even the opener “Jingle Bells” sounds intriguing and — I know it will be hard to believe — “new”. Actually, I had to hold my breath during the first five songs, since “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let is snow” is a pure delight and I can’t find words to express my feelings for her “Santa Baby.” Do yourself a favor and listen. Never a vocal Christmas jazz albums sounded so charming and …seductive! Anna’s phrasing and the highly personal tone of her silky “innocent” voice (the missing link between Bjork and Blossom Dearie) are pure delight. And again: so far, the best Christmas CD of this century. Happy Holidays!”
To order a CD copy or a digital download:
“Do yourself a favor and catch her now, at an intimate small club, before she breaks out into larger venues.”
-Charles Andrews, Music Forums Moderator, HTSpot.com
“Icelandic jazz vocalist Anna Mjöll has developed a considerable buzz in L.A. selling out every night of recent weekend shows at Vibrato.”
-Tom Meek, LA Jazz.com
“Anytime you can sip a drink in a cool jazz club and be close to an excellent combo fronted by an excellent singer… who scats — life is good.
Had that pleasure last night as I checked out a FaceBook “friend” who was singing at Charlie O’s in the valley (LA). I don’t know much about her but Anna Mjoll said she has backed up some big pop names like Julio Iglesias on tour and in the studio, and her mother was a jazz singer back home in Iceland. So that makes two Icelander jazz singers at least, when I might’ve previously guessed, oh, zero. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but shouldn’t be surprised either — Scandinavia has produced some outstanding jazz musicians (though few vocalists — I can’t name any), and Iceland, though tiny, is part of Scandinavia.
I get the impression she’s fairly recently made the career transition from pop to jazz (and has a CD out, recorded here and mixed in Reykjavik) but she has the genes and the predilection for jazz vocalese. She may not have the range of an Ella (who does?) but she’s got the feel for it, and that’s more important. I’ve heard it the other way around, fantastic vocal instrument but no sympatico, and it gets old quickly. Singing jazz requires a soulful connection to the material, and Mjoll’s got it.
She’s relaxed and professional on stage, because she’s got the material nailed. She gives each song a personal, distinctive touch. She doesn’t try to re-invent the standards, but she inhabits them evocatively. I got there for the last set and wished I’d heard more, and I’m the kind of “sampler” who often “gets it” and splits. But even though she was calling out numbers from a songbook (“let’s do #55…”), it sounded like she had played with the John Heard Trio for ages.
Do yourself a favor and catch her now, at an intimate small club, before she breaks out into larger venues.
“Someone recently referred to Anna’s new CD, recorded in California and mixed in Reykjavik, as “a must have by the sweetest woman and singer this side of Iceland!”
I must add: a must have by the sweetest voice in the current jazz scene. Period.”
“Shadow…” features the LA-based Icelandic jazz diva surrounded by an all-star band led by her lucky arranger/producer/
After repeated listenings, “Shadow…” evokes me memories of Peggy Lee, Astrud Gilberto and specially Blossom Dearie. Anyway, despite all these mentioned references echoing on my mind, Anna Mjoll sounds like her own woman, capable to enchant and fascinate the listener with highly personal interpretations of top-class songs.
The rhythm section changes on Johnny Mandel’s classic “The Shadow of Your Smile,” but once again Anna’s approach is unique and amazing, intertwined with Ólafur Gaukur’s 12-string acoustic guitar a la Luiz Bonfa.
She knows how to caress a melody and seduce the listener, like happens throughout the album. Another highlight, “Fever,” firstly made famous by Peggy Lee and later revived by Madonna, is a singing lesson in the sense of how to make each and every word sound with the proper impact and feeling.
Don Grusin’s piano floats in perfect empathy with Anna’s milky vocals on Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love.” Don’t lose your time trying to compare her with Dionne Warwick or Diana Krall. Mjoll’s once again sounds ultra-peculiar.
A latin-tinged arrangement of the French classic “C’est Si Bon” follows, featuring the horn section and Conte on percussion. Anna’s sounds, to use French words, “coquette et sensuel.” A beautiful original by Gaukur, “Saman Bú Og Ég” (the composer solos on the electric guitar while backing himself on the 12-string acoustic guitar), and two Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes complete the repertoire. The arangements includes a lovely guitar-wordless vocal solo section. Her phrasing would make Jobim proud.
A surprising mood also envolves “Água de Beber,” sung in Portuguese. Both Jobim songs, also appear as bonus tracks on Icelandic versions written by the multi-talented Gaukur.
“Shadow of Your Smile” is by far one of the best vocal jazz releases of 2009. Gifted with an abysmal potential, no one can accuse Anna Mjoll’s of musical compliance. This wondrous girl (all the great booklet pics were shot on location in Iceland by Ess) knows how to take chances.