C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz

Kristina Koller
Perception
Self Produced
2017

Youthful enthusiasm characterizes New York state-native Kristina Koller‘s debut recording Perception. The specs for this auspicious debut include an even dozen selections: eight standards and four originals. This far, Perception begins like a legion of well-intentioned releases by young artists. But, Koller’s offering takes a hard turn from the conventional wisdom in her brave and bold arrangements that turn the Great American Songbook on its ear. In doing this, Koller, smooths the surface of the project to perfectly integrate her own originals. Koller compares favorably with New York City cum NOLA vocalist/composer Sasha Masakowski in the respect that both young artists are firebrand re-framers of the standard jazz repertoire.

Koller, with the informed support of pianists Fima Chupakhin and Jan Michael Looking Wolf, recast in a very contemporary fashion Tin Pan Alley classics: “You Go to My Head,” “I’ll Remember April,” and “Nice Work if You Can Get It.” The project couples two songs that are stylistic soulmates, Oscar Levant’s “Blame It on My Youth,” and Bob Dorough‘s “Devil May Care” both expanded by Koller’s present-day vision. Koller’s original composition, “Utopia” featuring the singer playing ukulele and singing in a style of Hudson/Mills/DeLange’s 1933 classic “Moonglow.” This is as sunny a song experienced as Jason Mraz’s infectious “I’m Yours,” only better. Behold the arrival of a great new talent.

Kathy Kosins
Uncovered Soul
Membran Records
2017

Detroit singer Kathy Kosins come full circle home with her sixths recording, Uncovered Soul, produced by Kamau Kenyatta, who has been most closely associated with Gregory Porter (Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note, 2016) and Nat King Cole & Me (Blue Note, 2017)). Kenyatta’s presence is best experienced in the lush instrumental grooves he conjures while directing things from the piano. It can also be detected in the assembly of the repertoire for the project, an assembly that focuses on the music of Detroit, circa 1970. The recital includes songs by the Neville Brothers, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and Burt Bacharach, as well as originals penned by Kosins and associates. The disc is an infusion of well-chosen material from the past and present.

Uncovered Soulbears all of the production elements one would expect of Kenyatta. A lush, echoing, and subtle groove that melds synergistically with Kosins’ confident and sensual delivery (check out “Voodoo” for this turned up to 10). Kosins’ performance of Curtis Mayfield‘s “Ms. Martha” (from Mayfield’s New World Order (Warner Bros, 1996)) is a silky, wah-wah throwback to the 1970s with 21st Century sonic technology. Kosins injects the Bill Withers vehicle, “Can We Pretend” with a smooth, soothing contemporary jazz touch. Kenyatta’s sumptuous production pulls Kosins sophisticated deliver to the forefront. The most organic offering on Uncovered Soul is Burt Bacharach’s “Any Day Now.” It comes closest to escaping the consistent production of the rest of the recording.

Kelly Green
Life Rearranged
Self Produced
2017

Do you remember when writers would refer to the composers of Broadway show tunes as singing with a “lyricist’s voice,” meaning don’t expect too much from the quality of the singing? Well, that does not apply to Florida-borne, New York City native Kelly Green. From the first song presented on her debut recording, Life Rearranged Green establishes that she is no mere songwriter, but an artist and performer in toto. The title song begins with New York City street sounds that give way to an expansive and orchestral piano introduction that goes well beyond simple accompaniment. Green’s sure command of the piano and her well-trained voice ensures that she can plumb the depths of even the craggy time signature changes found in her performance of Frank Loesser’s “Never Will I Marry.” Green’s voice is deceptively youthful, but not so much that the song sound contrived. She extrapolates this same element into another Loesser classic, “I’ll Know.”

Green favors solid and simple accompaniment that includes bassist Christian McBride on four pieces and vibraphonist Steve Nelson, including Green’s own “Little Daffodil,” where he spreads metallic notes like the wind spreading spring seeds. Freshly close and yet, wide open, the song possesses a funky, descending vibe that reminds one of a morphine dream. Josh Evans muted trumpet adds to the noir here and wherever he shows up. Green’s “If you thought to Ask Me” possesses and 1930s personality, something like a cross between Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. Green’s composing skills are more than impressive, making this first recording that much more appealing. Many are the charms of this first try.

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