Friday, December 27, 2013

Lauren Kinhan Circle In A Square Dotted I 2014

Lauren Kinhan steps up her game and in doing so raises the bar for vocalists across the board!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

Lauren Kinhan may be best known as one of the key components of the critically acclaimed New York Voices despite having a musical pedigree that includes work with Steely Dan, Sting, and Van Morrison. The recent Christmas release Let It Snow from The New York Voices put Kinhan back on my musical radar and her third solo release Circle In A Square is a stunning semi-autobiographical look at love, life and all the baggage one encounters along the way.

I've been burned by vocalists before. Having reviewed more singers in three years than most hear in a lifetime the vast majority are the equivalent of improvisational chewing gum, great flavor at the beginning but midway through the release they become utterly forgettable and quite often die a self inflicted death of pretentious overkill. Lauren Kinhan is the notable exception as her lyrical and harmonic gifts as a vocalist make an effortless transition to pen and paper as her talents as a lyricist are equal to any of her contemporaries. Circle In A Square features an all star lineup including Randy Brecker, Donny McCaslin and the Brazilian guitar virtuoso Romero Lubambo. The compositions are finely crafted pieces of Kinhan's experiences as she embraces that all important aspect of connectivity elevating this release past the tightly clustered pack of female vocalists content to bang out a set of shop worn standards in an effort to earn a quick if not relatively easily payday.

A hidden gem on this release includes "Another Hill to Climb" which includes a gorgeous string arrangement by the great Rob Mounsey and features a quartet led by another critically acclaimed artist in Sara Caswell. Playing musical prospector with Circle In A Square is done so with relative ease as sparkling gold nuggets turn up with consistency throughout this finely crafted effort. Grammy-nominated Randy Brecker turns in yet another amazing performance in his legendary career while Brazilian six string master Romero Lubambo shines on "Chasing The Sun."

There are layers of texture, organic bits of lyrical wonder that magically fuse together to make a contemporary mosaic of harmonic wonder that sets a new standard for improvisational vocalists everywhere. The sorority of female vocalists is a tightly clustered pack with Lauren Kinhan making a bold new statement that bodes well for the future.
Nothing to grind on here, it simply does not get much better than this.
 
Tracks: Circle In A Square; My Painted Lady Butterfly; Another Hill To Climb; Chasing The Sun; I'm Lookin' For That Number One; To Live Or Die; Pocketful of Harlem; We're Not Going Anywhere Today; Chaussure's Complex; Bear Walk; Vanity's Paramour; The Deep Within.
 
Personnel: Andy Ezrin: Fender Rhodes; Ben Wittman: Drums & Percussion; Will Lee: Bass; Randy Brecker: Trumpet; Lauren Kinhan, Marlon Saunders, Ella Marcus: Background Vocals; David Finck: Bass; Joel Frahm: Soprano Saxophone; Sara Caswell: 1st Violin, Joseph Brent 2nd Violin; Lois Martin: Viola; Jody Redhage: Cello; Aaron Heick: Alto Flute; Romero Lubambo: Guitar; Donny McCaslin: Tenor Saxophone; John Bailey: Flugel Horn; Chuck Loeb: Guitar; Gary Versace: Accordion.