Karin Krog (vocals; b. 1937)
Norweigian chanteuse, Karin Krog, is probably one of the most under-rated jazz vocalists on the scene. While she is immensely popular oversees her stature in the U.S. may be that of cult figure. I think this may be due to lack of good distribution of her albums. She has recorded some highly influential and incredibly brilliant albums since the 60s. For me she doesn't have a bad record in her catalog.
She has said that her career started after seeing the Billie Holiday performance in Oslo. This was probably the impetus but Krog has definitely created her own sound and vision over a five decade career. Just as fellow country-woman, Sisdel Endresen has carved out a career utilizing jazz, vocal and electronic experimentation, Krog has been a stylistic and brilliant interpreter of songs (her own as well as standards). She is a vocalists who is unique yet still contemporary. Similar to Betty Carter, Nina Simone or Abby Lincoln. Krog was for sure one of the few to experiment with various styles throughout her career.
She started like many performing Swing, moving into bop and then reaching beyond jazz by incorporating and experimenting with sound treatments and electronics with John Surman and Steve Kuhn among others. She has also worked with some of best musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, including Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Archie Shepp and more. She made her solo debut in 1964 with the album By Myself (Verve) and among the many fantastic Karin Krog albums that are worth seeking out I would choose Some Other Spring (Meantime Records; 1970) which features a great line up of European and American players (Kenny Drew, Dexter Gordon, Epsen Rud and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen). Also You Must Believe In Spring (Meantime) and Where You At? (Enja) worth the hunt as well.
If you choose to just absorb the best of bunch there are at least two compilations that would suit anyone fine. First, Jubilee (Verve) is a two disc set of her recordings from the sixties to the nineties and is delightful listen. Second and probably the more widely available is the collection Raindrops, Raindrops (Crippled Dick Hot Wax). Don't let the label name fool you--this is great stuff. Its a single disc so its cheaper and covers some stellar material spanning 1963 - 1985).
Raindrops, Raindrops features some great work with John Surman on a hauntingly funky and psychedelic "New Spring." Krog and her quartet (Steve Swalllow (bass), Jon Christensen (drums) and Steve Kuhn (keys)) show off some lovely Latin-tinged flavouring on "The Meaning Of Love." Her arrangement of "Maiden Voyage - Lazy Afternoon" is truly stunning, original and worth repeated listens. Raindrops, Raindrops is an absolutely essential collection if you'd like to get into the music of Karin Krog. Karin Krog just released a new album, Oslo Calling (Meantime) which continues her longstanding colaborative work with John Surman.
Karin Krog could easily be considered Norway's great jazz singer and these albums are just a short list of how true that statement is.