Saturday, February 15, 2014
Lauren Kinhan Circle in a Square
When I was a kid my parents bought a cabinet stereo: wood panel and big, copper arm over the record. Neither of them used it much, if ever. I got their money’s worth. I listened to the Thunder Ball sound track from the James Bond movie till the groves wore out. I listened to the Beatles and Barbara Streisand. I didn’t listen to jazz, because I didn’t know it existed. I loved the music but I also loved the big album covers.
Lauren Kinhan has an album that arouses my memories of those early stereo days. The artwork clearly sets the atmosphere. Early sixties. Hi-Fidelity. Her luscious, velvet voice is a good place to rest your weary head. I don’t listen to a lot of vocal jazz, but I keep coming back to this one. The band behind her is brilliant.
Part of what makes Circle in a Square so revelatory is that it provides a rare 360-degree glimpse into Kinhan’s musical world. She wrote all the lyrics and almost all the music for every piece, and shaped each arrangement working with her core rhythm section of pianist/keyboardist Andy Ezrin and drummer Ben Wittman (the well-traveled Will Lee and David Finck divide bass duties). The steady personnel provides a cohesive feel throughout the album, while an all-star gallery of special guests contributes instrumental commentary and eloquent solos, such as Brazilian guitar great Romero Lubambo’s perfectly sculpted acoustic passage on the intricate, lyric-less “Chasing the Sun” and trumpet maestro Randy Brecker’s melodically charged passage on the title track.
This is page two jazz: improvisation is strictly on the margins. The melody and narrative are all on stage. You need to keep coming back to this to get the whole point of jazz. Lauren Kinhan is someone to come back to.