The 10 best global albums of 2023Read Review
Ulaanbaatar-born singer Enji’s third record cements her distinct vision of Mongolian jazz. Combining the ceremonial long song – where syllables are drawn out to create elongated, melismatic lines of melody – with acoustic jazz instrumentation and short, sharp scat voicings, Ulaan plunges engaging depths despite the soft vibrato of Enji’s voice. She’s accompanied only by clarinet and bass on tracks such as Temeen Deerees Naran Oirhon and Vogl, and a downtempo jazz quartet on the Latin-influenced Taivshral, all working to create a spacious new environment for a centuries-old vocal tradition.
The New York Times06.12.23
Best Jazz Albums of 2023Read Review
Don't beat yourself up too hard for missing this one when it came out in July, but don't let it pass you by: the third release from a young Mongolian-born, Munich-based singer with a voice pitched just above a whisper. Enji mixes cool jazz registers with echoes of her home country's "long song" (Urtiin Duu) tradition. Cafe-style jazz singers like this rarely sound so unpretentious, original and free.
The best album of 2023: Enji, ’Ulaan’Read Review
Extraordinary story, extraordinary music. Raised in a yurt in Mongolia, Enkhjargal Erkhembayar was a music teacher until a German jazz outreach program invited her to Munich, where she embarked on a singing career under the name Enji — first making an album with drummer Billy Hart, then another disc of her own songs and now this one, “Ulaan.” Her new ballads feature a drummer and a clarinetist from Brazil, allowing Enji to sing her native melodies with a bossa nova tenderness that’s practically paralyzing — the vocalist and her collaborators gently pushing toward the highest levels of empathy and cooperation that our humanity allows.
Global album of the month: Elegant and powerful twist on traditional Mongolian musicRead Review
The Ulaanbaatar-born singer shows there is more to her country than throat singing: her dextrous voice sits between jazz improv and ceremonial song. Mongolian music has a long history of producing captivating vocal styles. The best-known is throat singing – a reverberating technique that produces multiple pitches during a single phrase. Raw, earthy and a predominantly male pursuit, throat singing is more of a droning instrumental sound than a means of conveying lyrics. For the Ulaanbaatar-born singer Enkhjargal Erkhembayar, AKA Enji, there is another side to her country’s song – a delicate, dexterous vocal that sits between jazz improvisation and the ceremonial long song (Urtiin duu), a vibrato-laden style of singing where syllables are drawn out to create melismatic lines that can spend minutes expressing single words.
Born into a lineage of long song singers, Erkhembayar’s 2017 debut, Mongolian Song, featured traditional compositions with sprightly jazz arrangements, while 2021’s Ursgal comprised nine original songs. On Ulaan, Erkhembayar produces the most singular vision of her Mongolian jazz music yet, through 10 new compositions of scat singing, atmospheric soundscapes and acoustic instrumentation blended with her yearning voice.
Opening softly on the rolling toms and bowed bass of Zuud, Erkhembayar’s vocal is meandering yet insistent, building to a crescendo before skipping over the syncopated Latin rhythms of following number Tavishral. Her graceful, airy tone continues over the finger-picked guitar of Duulnaa and mirrors the warmth of woodwinds on the title track, bringing to mind melodically-nimble jazz contemporaries such as Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens.
Enji isn’t your typical Mongolian jazz singerRead Review
On her gorgeous third album, ‘Ulaan,’ the inventive vocalist blurs the line between worldly and otherworldly.
The instrumentation on “Ulaan” feels so delicate, it’s often on the precipice of vanishing. Keep your ears focused and you’ll hear arrangements as practical as Enji’s singing, which even at its lullaby-softest, remains stealthily rhythmic and deeply cooperative. On “Duulnaa,” when she floats into a sequence of curlicue vowels with Queiroz’s clarinet twirling nearby, it’s like two puffs of smoke floating through one another. In “Picture/Three Shadows,” Brändle’s guitar converges with Enji and Queiroz so gently, it’s hard to know whether the instruments are supporting the voice or the voice is supporting the instruments. Instead of obeying a formal hierarchy, their music becomes a sort of liquid interdependency.
Don’t worry about losing yourself in the swirl. Across a neat 36-minutes, “Ulaan” conjures a sense of wonderment without ponderousness, sentimentality or melodrama. These songs sound so inventive, so free, yet so grounded — and if they end up calming your mind, the aim wasn’t to numb it, but to open it. It’s generous work, and it’s selfless, too. No one here ever sounds like they’re trying to draw attention to themselves. That responsibility falls to us. Share this music with people you like and listen to it with the people you love.
Die 50 besten Alben des Jahres 2023Read Review
Ist es Folk, ist es Jazz, ist es einfach das intimste Jazzalbum des Jahres 2023? Für »Ulaan« hat die mongolische Sängerin Enji ihr Trio mit dem Gitarristen Paul Brändle und dem Bassisten Munguntovch Tsolmonbayar um die beiden Brasilianerinnen Joana Queiroz (Klarinette) und Mariá Portugal (Schlagzeug) erweitert. Enji kann alles mit ihrer Stimme, kann magische Beschwörung sein, der Flügelschlag einer Libelle, der Nebel, der sich in den Winkeln des Altaigebirges verzieht. Dieses Ensemble hilft ihr dabei und entführt uns in völlig unbekannte Winkel.
Jazz & mongolische Folklore: Sängerin Enji und das Album “Ulaan“Read Review
Aufgewachsen ist Enji Erkhem in einer Jurte in Ulaanbaatar, der Hauptstadt der Mongolei. Die traditionelle Musik ihrer Heimat ist in ihrer heutigen Musik deutlich zu spüren - in den Gesangstechniken und durch den Einsatz der mongolischen Sprache. "Ulaan" heißt das aktuelle Album der Wahlmünchenerin. Eine hoch originelle Fusion der Tradition ihrer Heimat, Jazz und Bossa Nova in Kammerbesetzung.
Nothing but Hope and Passion15.09.23
Theory And Tradition: Jazz Meets Mongolian Long Song On “Ulaan” by EnjiRead Review
The singer Enji gives her jazz conservatory education a twist by breaking open its structures and drawing from her background in thousand-year-old Mongolian folk tradition. In conversation with NBHAP, the artist talks about her new album "Ulaanbaatar" and explores the personal connection to the color red and how trust and communal singing shaped the music.
Singing is a spatial practice. Soundwaves extend across space. Voices travel from recording booths to headphones or fill tiny basement jazz clubs. The rooms that singer Enkhjargal Erkhembayar, known as Enji, creates and fills with the sounds of her new album Ulaan, are tender ones. Between minimalistic jazz and traditional Mongolian folk, the artist uses vocals intentionally, shifting pace where she sees fit, and like, this skillfully communicates the emotions of the songs sung in Mongolian even to listeners who do not speak the language. I caught up with Enji to find out more about her musical style and the stories behind Ulaan.
At the time of our conversation, Enji is visiting Mongolia and connects to the Zoom call from the studio of a friend in the capital city – the city that is also the title of the album. She is wearing a band shirt from her previous vocal collective, Enji’s Sisters, with whom she performed jazz songs from the 20s and 30s. The shirt reads in cursive lettering: if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. The artist gets up to show me the print and, with a smile on her face, says: “It means a lot to me”. The shirt is a connector to home for the artist who has been living in and recording from the South German city of Munich for the past years.
Goethe Institute Popcast31.08.23
An extraordinary work full of beauty and sublimityRead Review
Mongolian jazz singer Enji recorded her third album Ulaan in Unterföhring's Mastermix Studio for the unique Munich-based Squama label. As with the previous album Ursgal, the predominantly quiet compositions combine traditional Mongolian music, language and storytelling with contemporary folk and jazz. On this release, she expands her trio to include two Brazilian musicians on clarinet and drums, who enrich the stylistic spectrum in surprising and fascinating ways. An extraordinary work full of beauty and sublimity.