By Doug Boynton, Girls Singers
Robin McKelle – Alterations (Doxie Records)
Released – 14 February 2020
One of the things I miss because of the Amazonification of the music business is the ability to go into a record shop and browse the bins looking for something new. If you can find a real record shop these days, they’re mostly selling used discs, and if you can name something, “…we can order it for you.”
Heck, I can order it, too.
Which is a long way of saying that I first found Robin McKelle’s work in the bins of a music store that didn’t stock the same fifty jazz recordings found at Target.
And I’ve been a fan since.
Eclectic in style and choices of music, she’s bypassed original material here for a “best of” list of “…cover songs by different female artists from different genres, and kind of change them…create them into my own thing.”
And her own thing is as varied as the source material. Pulling from artists as diverse as Dolly Parton, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday, Ms. McKelle and the talented group she’s assembled here manage to put these songs through the jazz filter, and what comes out is – “Oh, my – she’s singing ‘Jolene!’”
Part of that credit goes to pianist, arranger, and producer on this set, Shedrick Mitchell. The arrangements manage to retain just enough of the original but allow Ms. McKelle enough room to take the off-ramp to someplace special.
“When you create change, you create space for something to shift in the world and in yourself. As an artist. And as a human. And that is a change for the good.”
This is Ms. McKelle’s ninth recording. The first is a collector’s item.
If you’re unfamiliar with Ms. McKelle’s work (she spends a lot of time in Europe), this is a great place to begin your collection. Good luck finding that first one.