Jazz is an infinitely malleable art form, and Andrea Fultz may be the first vocalist to stretch the music in such a convincingly Teutonic direction. A singer who combines a thespian’s emotional resourcefulness with a jazz vocalist’s rhythmic flexibility, Fultz can infuse fresh drama to American Songbook standards, croon lilting bossa novas, and keep a dance floor gyrating with insinuating electronica grooves. But the Munich-born Fultz defines herself with The German Projekt, a tough, unsentimental new album that plunges jazz into deliciously dangerous waters.
More than a singular cultural synthesis, The German Projekt is a riveting musical journey that brings Fultz’s savvy jazz sensibility to the sardonic Weimar repertoire of Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Hollaender, and Hanns Eisler. While jazz musicians have long embraced a handful of Weill songs (“Mack the Knife,” “My Ship,” “September Song”), Fultz delivers most of the music in German, setting the sturdy songspiel melodies to beautifully calibrated, jazz-infused arrangements. “It is a big thing for me to represent German culture in America,” Fultz says. “I really think this music is brilliant. Brecht and Weill and Hollaender are so timeless.”
The album’s only two English language songs offer a strong indication of Fultz’s thematic range. “Alabama Song,” the rollicking opening track, is a scorching, bluesy tune made famous in the 1930 Brecht-Weill opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (where it was originally performed in Brecht’s idiosyncratic English). Many Americans discovered the tune on The Doors’ debut album, but in Fultz’s hands “Alabama Song” serves as an introduction to a topsy-turvy world in which the usual themes tackled by jazz singers��the longing, euphoria, and bitterness inspired by romance��give way to a much more expansive world of concerns.