Amsterdam-based Norbert Kögging is a singer and composer who recorded his first album “Daydreaming” in Canada. Now he comes up with “Sketches Of Ordinary Life”, recorded in Osnabrück in Germany, and featuring the alto saxophone and clarinet of Michael Moore.
Norbert, who is also a vocal coach and festival director for the Jazzfest Amsterdam, has a crystal clear intonation with a perfect pitch and and faultless phrasing. Similar to Theo Bleckmann with a Hamel twist and a part of Sachal Vasandani (probably more than the others), if you need a comparison at all, with a slightly nasal touch. His compositions are refreshingly off-center, like the breaking “Yesterday’s Horizon”.
The mellower “Fly Out” has some intrinsic, speckling input from Michael Moore on clarinet who excels on a longer solo here, moving the song into higher spheres before Norbert draws you back in to his story. More or less the same can be said of “Today’s Tendencies”, except that Michael Moore is heard here on sax on this upbeat number which asks, “What happened to authenticity?”.
I quiet like the way Norbert tells his stories, like the one on “Night Train” about impatience, hope, and anticipation. Cleverly executed by moving, at times dramatic fillings by drummer Felix Schlarmann and bassist Tobias Nijboer as well as pianist Folkert Oosterbeek. On “Wajang Scenes”, he reflects on and refers to the Wajang, the Indonesian puppet theatre performances which play with shadows, and conjures up some visualizations about what’s going on in his room, all the time accompanied by a slowly moving tempo that shows how time can fly by gently and without any haste. A wonderful piece.
I have to admit that it takes some getting used to adjusting to the unsettling drums at the beginning of “Some Day Soon”, and though the recurring drum parts fit the accompanying story about losing someone and breaking out, the whole structure is a bit too nervous for me (“I hope some day soon/I’ll break out/I’ll get off this roundabout”). There is also a nice little love song that never really commences (“Right From The Start (For Isolde)” and an eerie album closer posing some intricate questions. Maybe it’s this sweet lavishness that makes this album a felicitous discovery.