by C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz

John Minnock
Right Around the Corner
Self Produced

John Minnock brings a much needed extroverted edge to jazz vocals. Part of that edge is his progressive repertoire, which includes Grace Jones, Billy Joel, and Sam Smith. Another part of that edge is the exuberance with which he sings his up-tempo pieces, evidenced on the title song of Right Around The Corner, which is twenty-first century gritty urban, and his cosmic cover of Jay Bannon’s “New York, New York” (not the Sinatra standard). Featuring David Liebman‘s ever-expressive soprano saxophone, Minnock delivers the song with a muscular assertiveness, the two artists sparring on this jagged-edged performance. This is forward thinking.

What makes the disc special are the dramatically reworked standards. “Get Happy” is as impressionistic as a watercolor fading in the rain. “Moon River” is delivered with a samba beat featuring guitarist Tony DePaolo. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” is delivered in a halted, pensive manner as a duet with pianist Enrique Haneine. David Liebman introduces an almost ragged “Skylark” until Minnock starts and all is smooth, with just of hint of anxiety from Liebman’s horn in counterpoint to the singer’s more conservative approach. Right Around the Corner is a welcome addition to male jazz vocals, a subgenre in need of greater membership like this.

Kristina Koller
At The Poli Club
Self Produced

New York City vocalist Kristina Koller follows up her debut recording, Perception (Self Produced, 2017), with this four-song, extended play live recording. Koller is backed by Fima Chupakhin on piano, Ben Rubens on bass and Darrian Douglas on drums. Their support deepens the organic flavor of Koller’s sturdy and expressive voice. After Koller and company deliver a solid “Save Your Love for Me,” the group assembles an impressionist performance of the Rodgers and Hart piece “Falling in Love with Love.” Chupakhin’s solo is lengthy and expressive and Koller’s delivery precise on the dot. The quartet delivers the goods on the two remaining pieces, “I Didn’t Know About You” and “What a Difference a Day Makes.”

Koller possesses a robust confidence in her singing, which could be considered casual expression that lesser talents could not pull off with all the practice in the world. This lends her voice a sexy, relaxed, and intense edge while she makes it all look and sound easy. Her stage presence is potent and assertive, brimming with that same robust confidence. Jazz is meant to be performed live and this brief recording expresses why. So, okay, these four songs are a provocative taste. Please consider expanding into a full CD release. Kristina Koller, you are worth it.

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