Memory Box: a number from Tanja Maritsa’s previous album, Child in My Heart
Here’s proof that it’s possible to be gentle, understated, enigmatic and provocative, all at the same time. London-based Tanja Maritsa’s second album, Fragile, insinuates itself into your head and drifts around, underscoring the changing moods of the day. Not in a ghastly, earworm fashion. But in the way her intimate vocals – so soft that they’re almost whispered rather than sung, daringly close to the mic (she has an assured technical confidence) – wrap themselves around you.
Maritsa’s top-class band provide jazz inflections and undertones that shimmer around her voice – James Graydon’s guitar and Richard Cottle (who works regularly with Claire Martin) on the piano deserve special mention for the delicacy of their playing – as she swings her way delicately through Colette Meury’s pristine arrangements. Richard Niles has done a masterful production job, pulling together a diverse range of musical references and nuances in such a way that the shifts in tone, style and tempo never jar.
Maritsa keeps your expectations on their toes. The lilting opening track, “Live for Today”, promises a retro, 1950s nightclub experience, full of simple optimism, which is revisited later on in “No More the Blues”. But don’t be fooled, because there is plenty of food for the soul’s darker side to come, not least in Maritsa’s treatment of Sting’s “Fragile” – the title track and one of two imported numbers (the others are all from Maritsa’s pen) – and the poignant “Fading Grace” and “Always With You”. Loss, renewal and moving on are constant themes. The final ballad, “Fading Grace”, is a poignant acceptance of grief and lost innocence, its emotional impact only heightened by the spare delivery.
There are hints of chanson in “Won’t You Dance” and “In Love Again”, jazz-tinged folk in “On the Other Side of the World”, and bossa nova in the Astor Piazzolla number “Libertango”, but every time you think you’ve identified a specific style, Maritsa spins you on to a new perspective in her subtle, irresistible way. Fragile is a thoughtful, beautifully conceived little piece of magic.