Reviews and Quotes

Review of Diane Jarvi’s Flying Into Blue

Published in The Finnish American Reporter March, 1999

I suppose it’s not surprising that the Twin Cities should become one of North America’s centers for music based on, or influenced by Nordic folk traditions.

A prime example is Diane Jarvi, the poet, singer, and kantele player, who has just released her third CD, “Flying Into Blue,” (Lupine Records LR 1005). In this recording, Diane explores the territories of lullabies and lyric poetry, and adds some original material in the same vein. For the most part, this is a quiet, gentle mixture, and Diane’s voice is, as always, a lovely, evocative instrument. The singing is complemented by tasteful guitar playing from the incredible Dean Magraw, a bit of accordion here and there from Dan Newton, some concert harp from Sunita Staneslow, a touch of mysterious percussion by Marc Anderson, tin whistle and flute from Laura MacKenzie, and Gordy Johnson’s bass and keyboards.

Following the lullaby strand of the recording, one finds the lovely Yiddish cradle song, “Raisins and Almonds” (which always stimulates my tear ducts), “Arullo” from Mexico, the Irish “Mullach A’ Tsi,” and our own American “All the Pretty Little Horses.” On the Finno-Ugric side, Diane sings Finnish, Ingrian, and Karelian lullabies, and a Sami joik by Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa. I am particularly taken by the Ingrian “Uni Tulee,” which Diane accompanies with 5-string kantele, and which has just a wisp of percussion to it. The Finnish “As Tuuti Lasta” is a lullaby, and is sung quietly, but with a driving urgency provided by accordion and guitar.

The poetry thread in this CD includes sung versions of poems by Christina Rosetti, John Keats, Emily dickinson, and Edgar Allen Poe. I especially like Diane’s singing of Poe’s “The Bells,” which was set to music by the late ’60’s folk singer, Phil Ochs. Diane’s finger-picked guitar evokes some of the old “folkie” feeling. Johnson’s bass keeps the time, and Dean Magraw produces some sort of guitar-synthesizer magic that sounds like distant bells that are not struck, but perhaps stroked. Beautiful stuff.

“Flying into Blue” is somewhat different from Diane’s previous recordings in terms of content, but as far as style and spirit go, it is pure Diane Jarvi—musically lovely, exquisitely produced, and poetic in spirit. I think that those who get this CD will be pleased.

American Musician Tours the Land of Her Grandparents

Published in Ilta-Sanomat July 3, 1997

Diane Jarvi is Perhaps More Finnish Than She Knows

A voice that bewitchingly moves from dark to light reaches for the works of Satumaa. The accent reveals immediately that Finnish is not the singer’s native language.

And yet the interpretation is as strong as a deep, still pool. Third generation Finnish-American Diane Jarvi seems to be reaching for something extremely fundamental from the land of her forefathers.

While talking to her something surprising creeps into the mind of the listener: Diane Jarvi really is not aware of how many kantele strings in the souls of the people of Finland she is able to touch with her interpretation. Like a shaman drummer from Lapland she is a mixture of the familiar and the unknown; somehow exotic and yet at the same time springing from the common roots deep within us.

The mere use of vibrato separates her from traditional Finnish music. The quick vibrating swing of the voice is familiar mainly to songs from American folk music sung by female Native American singers.

On the other hand Diane Jarvi is genetically one hundred percent a Finn. Her real name is Jarvenpa, in other words a Yankee version of Järvenpää. As a full-blooded third generation Finn she is already quite a rarity in a country where people typically describe themselves as, for example, a “Scotch/Finnish/Indonesian/Cherokee”

“Sure I understand a little Finnish, that is after I’ve been here a few more years,” Diane quips in English.

Jarvi arrived yesterday for a three-week tour, at which time she can be heard among other places at the Rovaniemi Roots’n River- festival, in Haapavesi, Oulu, and at Kaustinen. She is not yet sure about Helsinki gigs, which may turn up after the tour.

Review of Diane Jarvi’s Paper Heart

By Ted Heinonen · New World Finn · August 2004

Paper Heart Glows With A Warm Inner Light

Paper Heart is the fourth solo album by Minnesota’s premier singer/song writer Diane Jarvi. Co-produced by Diane and recorded at Matthew Zimmerman’s “Wild Sound” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it is her 3rd recording project under Matthew’s care. She is competently accompanied by a wonderful group of musicians—the best the Twin Cities area can offer—with Gordy Johnson on bass, Marc Anderson on percussion, Dean Magraw on guitar, Brian Barnes on guitar and mandolin, Dan Newton on accordion, and Clint Hoover on harmonica.

It’s hard to know where to start but suffice to say this album is a gem—it is like finding a wet agate on Superior’s shore glowing from a warm light within.

Paper Heart starts with “I Sing Your Evening Into Stars” (Mina Laulum Sun Iltasi Tahtihin) – a poem by Finland’s poet laureate V,A. Koskenniemi, it is a dreamlike waking of spring to summer, of souls returning home, of a wish to be near one’s love.

“Shiver Me Timbers” and “Meet Me on the Moon”, two poems by Alaskan poet and one-time Minnesota resident John Reinhard, are beautifully arranged and given wings to soar. With “Leina Leski”, the “Song of the Unblessed Widow” Diane will delight her Finnish fans who look forward to her arrangements of traditional Finnish ballads.

In “Where Were You Last Night” Diane steps into the city streetlights and serves up the blues as sultry as can be and sweetened by a great harmonica by Clint Hoover. She stays in the blues vein with the title- cut “Paper Heart” an original by Diane that show off her versatility as a musician and poet. “Triste Es Lo Cel” – Sad is the Sky is a French love song that could have come from a Finnish pen with all the images that it conjures.

I was taken by her arrangement of Joe Hill’s “The White Slave” the haunting story could be taken from the pages of any of today’s newspapers in any city. In Jos Voism” we return to traditional Finnish material, sorrows soaring on a lark’s wing.

Then there is “Padam Padam” In the past when friends would ask me to describe Diane’s vocal styling I would bring up images of gypsy-cafe singers like France’s Edith Piaf. Even the folk magazine Dirty Linen in its last review of Diane used the same comparison. On Paper Heart she finally brings to her collection this classic of Piaf’s. Listening to this song we are taken away to a street cafe in Paris (or a street table in Helsinki) with this song of love lost.

“You Do Me In” is the final bluesy original selection, and to these ears, she sure does… this album ended far too soon! If you ever have the chance to hear Diane live, and especially if she’s singing with Minnesota’s “Cafe Accordion”, please do so—most of the musicians on this album are with this entertaining combo.

I want to hear more from Diane. Or let me put it this way (my apologies to Glanzberg and Contet for the liberties I take with their song “Padam, Padam”):

This album obsesses me night and day
This album is not the sort written today
It comes from as far away as I come from
Carried by a hundred thousand musicians
One day this album will drive me crazy
A hundred times 1 wanted to ask “why?”
But it stole the words away from me.