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Album Review

As much as the music industry has evolved over the years, one thing has never changed: even some of the most talented musicians and composers find it necessary to have jobs outside of music. That remains true in the 21st century, and it was certainly true during the lifetime of Charles Ives (b. 1874, d. 1954). Ives did a considerable amount of composing in the 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s, but he also had a successful "day gig" in the insurance industry for many years. Ives' songs were underappreciated when he was alive; some of his biggest admirers are people who discovered his music long after his death — and one of them is New York singer Theo Bleckmann, who pays tribute to the American composer on Twelve Songs by Charles Ives. This 2008 recording could have easily become blatantly nostalgic, but Bleckmann (who is joined by the group Kneebody) doesn't sound like he is longing for the days of acoustical recordings and cylinders. Combining avant-garde jazz with elements of cabaret and avant-garde classical, Bleckmann puts his own spin on Ives' compositions and gives them 21st century makeovers. Twelve Songs by Charles Ives opens with a song that Ives wrote in 1895 ("Songs My Mother Taught Me"), but Bleckmann never pretends that this is anything other than a 21st century recording. In fact, someone who heard this 58-minute CD without knowing anything about Ives' life might be surprised to find out that "Weil auf Mir" goes back to 1902 or that "At the River" was written in 1916; Bleckmann puts a lot of effort into making the material sound contemporary by 2008 standards, and it works. Twelve Songs by Charles Ives is not only one of Bleckmann's most intriguing albums — it is also one of his most consistent.

Customer Reviews

Groundbreaking artists

Listening to Kneebody is a completely unique musical event. After owning their first album and seeing them perform live, I have never turned back. Their music, an organic fusion of many styles, is a journey you can't experience anywhere else. Amazing job with the music of Ives.


This music is so inventive and powerful. I saw the live show and was totally speechless!

Love this.

I heard this group (knee body with Theo Bleckmann) live at The Stone in NYC last year and it was one of most memorable and powerful jazz shows I have been to since moving to the city. Theo's voice is so crystal clear - it amazes me every time I hear him - I recommend everyone hear him live if you have not yet! I am looking forward to enjoying this album!


Born: 1966 in Dortmund, Germany

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

b. 1964, Dortmund, Germany. In his youth Bleckmann became a junior ice dancing champion before turning to singing as a career. After encountering Sheila Jordan at a workshop at the university in Graz, Austria, he decided to move to New York. This was in 1989 and from then onwards Bleckmann became a popular presence, especially in the contemporary jazz and improvised music scenes. He recorded with Jordan on her 1998 album Jazz Child, and sang with many others, including Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman,...
Full Bio
Twelve Songs By Charles Ives, Theo Bleckmann
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