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Saturday, October 14, 2017

CD Review: Lauren Kinhan - A Sleepin’ Bee

Lauren Kinhan (vocal); Andy Ezrin (piano); Matt Penman (bass); Jared Schonig (drums) + Ingrid Jensen (trumpet 3 tracks).
(Review by Dave Brownlow).
Lauren Kinhan, a talented singer, songwriter and arranger, has created an album of classic and lesser-known standards as a tribute to Nancy Wilson, drawing particularly from her early ‘60s  collaborations with Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing. Lauren has enjoyed a varied career as a long-time member of vocal “supergroup” New York Voices, as co-founder of groups Moss and JaLaLa and as a solo singer in her own right with several releases to her name.
A warm expressive voice allied with a tremendous vocal technique enables her to move effortlessly through various genres – hollerin’ in bluesy/gospel style one minute, melancholy or slapstick the next. Accompanied by pianist and co-arranger Andy Ezrin, a brilliant and thoughtful accompanist in the musicianly style of Hank Jones, the more-than-competent Matt Penman and Jared Schonig and, on three tracks, the outstanding, idiosyncratic, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.

A swinging Lets Live Again by Shearing and Milt Raskin gets the album off to a bright start including a horn-like chorus from the singer and a fleet-fingered solo from the pianist. Guess Who I Saw Today was Wilson’s debut single and Kinhan makes the song her own in its tale of infidelity with an ironic delivery of the lyrics complemented by a wry piano chorus which so aptly sustains the mood.
A Sleepin’ Bee (Arlen and Capote) is a tribute to Adderley and Shearing. There is a ‘jazzy’ delivery of the lyrics, an appropriate piano-led interlude and an arrangement with more-than-a glance at the original ‘60s recording. (You Don’t know) How Glad I Am is powerfully sung with gospel-style inflections where piano and bass provide a soulful background to a strong track.
Frank Loesser’s Never Will I Marry has Lauren in ‘Diva’ mode as she stretches, manipulates and torments the melody and lyrics in a version which would astonish the composer! Ingrid Jensen makes her first contribution on trumpet which decidedly ups-the-ante. Darting phrases and musical comments in her fluent, cool-yet-hot, contemporary style. A wholly arresting performance.
Buddy Johnson’s Save Your Love For Me has a wistful, vulnerable take from Lauren in an emotional version of the song which she had previously performed with and for Nancy Wilson herself when the latter was inducted as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2004.
Nat Adderley’s The Old Country segues seamlessly with Billy Strayhorn’s Passion Flower in an extended track of 9 min. 04 sec. In the latter song, Ingrid Jensen makes an enigmatic contribution with a fine obbligato behind and beside the vocal which is again full of atmosphere and élan. Ms Kinhan gives an ‘earthy’ twist to Mel Tormé’s Born To Be Blue where she scats jazzy ‘fours’ with pianist Ezrin.
The mood is continued into Raye and DePaul’s melancholic You Don’t Know What Love Is where imaginative support from the accompanying trio gives this track the perfect ambiance. The final item, an up-tempo version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Happy Talk, starts in a satirical, off-beat way and quickly morphs into a no-holds-barred swinger with all participants well into the mix. Again, Jensen stands out with a Navarro-style fluency throughout the whole range of the horn, both in her soloing and her duetting with the leader. A fine closer to an intriguing album.

The CD is on Lauren Kinhan’s own label “Dotted i Records” 2017-1 available now from Lauren Kinhan.com
Dave Brownlow.

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