Relay: When Did She Leave Heaven?

A collection grew and a musical education bestowed

   Lisa Ekdahl, where have you been all my life?
    I remember the excitement, there on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, when I’d walk down the steps into Nuggets, a secondhand record store near Kenmore Square. With the only three or four dollars I owned, I’d scan every bin, seeking the one record that would maximize those thin resources.
    A scratchy copy of “Sticky Fingers,” a Beatles bootleg, or take a chance on something previously unheard? The process was laborious, progress was slow, but over time a collection grew and a musical education bestowed.
    I remember the excitement, 20 years on, when Apple launched its iTunes Store. A legitimate, user-friendly means to purchase music, iTunes was a revolution in a music industry beset by piracy.
    Later, I began to peruse the literally thousands of Internet radio stations accessed via iTunes, thus commencing a new phase of discovery: Indian classical music, blues and classic rock stations, and many of the 231 offerings in the jazz genre.
    I’ve discovered several great artists in the latter category — not that they were obscure, only to me: Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal, the great Blossom Dearie. No more riding the bus to Kenmore Square: New music is purchased and delivered, with a few keystrokes, in seconds.
    I remember the excitement, this afternoon, when that voice came through the speakers. She sounded so much like Ms. Dearie, whose breathy, little-girl voice floated high above simple jazz accompaniments. But there was a foreign accent. Who was she? Her name was Lisa Ekdahl.
    I went to the Web site allmusic.com and learned that Ms. Ekdahl is from Stockholm, that she became a Scandinavian superstar at 23 with “Vem Vet” (Swedish for “Who Knows”), and that “When Did You Leave Heaven,” her first English-language album, was also her first jazz album.
    I found Ms. Ekdahl’s Web site, and sat, transfixed, for more than an hour: A dozen videos depict the artist, stunning, performing at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, or recording with her group in her Stockholm apartment.
    Somehow, each performance is more transcendent than the last. “Sing that song, sing it loud if you like,” she sings on, appropriately, “Sing.” “Or you can whisper it soft in my ear through the night / Sing that song that you hide in your chest / Let it fly like a bird as it’s leaving its nest.” How is this goddess not a household name in the U.S.?
    She is natural, earthy like Van Mor­rison or Norah Jones, but in a soph­isticated, continental setting. The Olympia Theatre! Enlightened, progressive Stock­­holm, home of August Strindberg and the Royal Dramatic Theatre! The imagination runs wild amid thoughts of . . . Lisa Ekdahl.
    Alas, the iTunes Store features just two of her songs, but YouTube and her Web site offer so much more. And so begins a new phase of discovery.



    Christopher Walsh is a reporter at The Star.