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Lauren Kinhan: Circle in a Square


Lauren Kinhan

Lauren Kinhan - Circle in a SquareLauren Kinhan’s rather fanciful conundrum Circle in a Square might actually be rather plausible. Here is why. One of the four singers in New York Voices, Ms. Kinhan sings in a voice brimming with fragile beauty. Her flight however, is elliptical and when she is on song she swoops and soars like the bird in her song in wide arcs that carve the air around the room where she can be heard. Her lines bob and weave and are never straight although she might vault from plane to plane like an itinerant geometrician; from there she leaps off the edge of her phrases with no net to grab her as she falls; only the surety of the extraordinary band who accompany her on this memorable flight. Only the imperceptible beating of the heart grounds Ms. Kinhan as she makes music in this invisible rink, making proverbial ellipses and circles as she makes the music dance and leap and soar as she builds these edifices of filigreed design that makes the hearts of the lovers of her work beat just a little bit faster. Her accents are like angel dust sprinkled on words and phrases that she enunciates with rare beauty. Hers is a singular voice that is uplifting in the New York Voices and even more so when all of the spotlights shine on her and the nude splendour of the music that she makes.

It is hard to prepare repertoire for a singer who voices music in the jazz idiom, but can sometimes make the music sound as if it were an aria. But the dramatic twists and turns of “My Painted Lady Butterfly” is one of those songs that seems like it was conceived as an aria in an opera. And then there is the song “Chasing the Sun” which has been written for wordless vocalastics in and she shares this with the Brasilian wunderkind, guitarist Romero Lubambo. The song begins as a lazy choro in a minor key and morphs into a swaggering samba. This too is just up Ms. Kinhan’s street apparently. But she is best when she digs deep into her soul and in the frailty of her voice lets the emotion drip down her face like tears. “To Live to Die” and “Vanity’s Paramour” bring that proverbial rush of blood to the cheeks and in that breathless way elicit a sob. And why should they not? Ms. Kinhan is utterly convincing as she sings of hurt. But in the end she always pulls out of that spiral that might drown the fainter of heart. There are times when Ms. Kinhan recalls the greatest of women of the blues and although she is a soprano, she has certainly heard Ruth Brown when she infuses her work with less than delicate sinews and belts out “I’m Lookin’ for That Number” and “The Deep Within”.

Of course Ms. Kinhan’s recording is a lavish production, with top flight talent such as trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonists Joel Frahm and Donny McCaslin featured on several of the charts she sings. But every singer loves her pianist and between Ms. Kinhan and pianist Andy Ezrin the sparks really fly. The ever present pianist seems to be her instrumental doppelgänger, even her very beating heart. When the two of them get it going as they do in “To Live or Die” the sparks fly in the nicest possible way and the results are stunning to say the least. And then there are the bassists Will Lee and David Finck, both of whom are so strong melodically that Ms. Kinhan enjoys a great rapport with them as if they were second lead voices at times. This is a wonderfully crafted album and will stand the singer in good stead going forward as she can only get better after this effort.

Track List: Circle in a Square; My Painted Lady Butterfly; Another Hill to Climb; Chasing the Sun; I’m Lookin’ for That Number; 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: Lauren Kinhan: vocals; Andy Ezrin: Fender Rhodes (1), piano (2, 3 – 11), Hammond B3 (5); Peter Eldridge: piano (12); Randy Brecker: trumpet (1, 10); John Bailey: flugelhorn (5); Joel Frahm: soprano saxophone(2, 12); Aaron Heick: alto flute(4); Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone (5, 11);Romero Lubambo: guitar (4, 6); Chuck Loeb: guitar (7); Gary Versace: accordion (9); Ben Wittman: drums and percussion; Will Lee: bass (1, 7, 10); David Finck: bass (2 – 6, 8, 9, 11, 12) Lauren Kinhan, Marlon Saunders, Ella Marcus: background vocals; String Quartet arrangement: Rob Mounsey (3); Sara Caswell: violin (3); Joseph Brent: violin (3); Lois Martin: viola (3); Jody Redhage: cello (3).

Label: Dotted i Records | Release date: February 2014

Website: laurenkinhan.com | Buy music on: amazon | Photo credit: Sandrine Lee

About Lauren Kinhan

Vocalist and Composer Lauren Kinhan has been creating genre-merging music for years as evidenced on her CD’s, Avalon (E One 2010) and Hardly Blinking (2000) and her contributions to New York Voices’ many recordings. Her musical ideas shake up the traditional confines of jazz, pop and everything in between and offer instead, the listener an experience led by an accomplished creative and curious mind. Legendary Phil Ramone describes Lauren as a true songstress, “She is musical, lyrical, and really delivers vocally.” Her training in jazz and deep connection to soul music has developed a voice that is expressive and fearless while her love of prose keeps her dreaming of ways to lead her listeners on different adventures. Christopher Loudon from Jazz Times says, “Sweet surprises lurk around every corner… shaping a pastiche that is hip, intelligent and vibrant.”


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