Lauren 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
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.”
Her third solo CD, tentatively titled Circle in a Square, is in production following a successful campaign she ran with the aid of Kickstarter’s fan funded business model. She has partnered with Elliot Scheiner (Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac) to produce the recording featuring the amazing talents of Ben Wittman (drums), Andy Ezrin (piano), Dave Finck (bass), and Will Lee (bass) for the underbelly. The project will also feature special guests like, Randy Brecker, Gil Goldstein, Romero Lubambo and Donny McCaslin, to name a few. It’s another collection of her original songs with a wide range of stories and moods to be struck. She has also commissioned fine artists to depict some of the songs that will be featured in the packaging and the book of lead sheets. The artists are from her own family and immediate circle of friends and celebrate the impact these visionaries have had on her creative life. A tentative Summer 2013 release is the goal.
Since 1992, Lauren has been a member of the Grammy Award winning New York Voices; a career that has taken her all over the world and allowed her to work with some of music’s greats like Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Bobby McFerrin, Paquito D’Rivera, Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, Ivan Lins and The Manhattan Transfer. NYV is celebrating their 25th Anniversary in 2013 with three new projects, New York Voices Live at the Java Jazz Festival (DVD & CD), New York Voices Live with the WDR Big Band and their long awaited Holiday Let it Snow. Their ever growing list of programs keep them busy with world class symphonies and big bands and their successful education division has grown from offering individual Master Classes and Workshops while on the road to creating the annual New York Voices Vocal Jazz Camp which attracts students of all ages and phases of life and from all over the world. This camp is hosted at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Her versatility as a composer is evidenced in her contributions to New York Voices CDs over the years, and co-founding two other super groups, Moss and JaLaLa. Moss, made up of Luciana Souza, Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge and Lauren, released their self-titled CD, Moss, in 2008 to rave reviews. In 2010, it was included in DownBeat’s ‘Best CDs of the 2000s’ issue. JaLaLa is short for Janis Siegel (The Manhattan Transfer), Laurel Massé (founding member of The Manhattan Transfer) and Lauren Kinhan, and they released their tribute to Johnny Mercer, That Old Mercer Magic, in 2009.
Lauren’s debut solo project, Hardly Blinking, was produced by Phil Ramone, Frank Filipetti and Rob Mounsey and was mixed by Frank and Elliot Scheiner in 2000. It shows off the influence that Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell had on her early writing. The collection of songs was pulled directly from a live performance at the Bitter End in NYC that Phil Ramone attended and then signed her on the spot. Expect categories to be dashed with rock anthems sitting next to art pieces. “Ask Amelia,” I Saw Love Today,” and “Heaven and Earth” are particular high notes.
In 2010, E One Entertainment picked up Lauren’s sophomore CD, Avalon, which she co-produced with Ben Wittman. Avalon incorporates more of her jazz background with her singer/songwriter predilection and takes a good look at the passage of time. It is a project rich with well-crafted arrangements highlighting Lauren’s voice and writing, and features some of New York’s finest musicians: Romero Lubambo, Donny McCaslin, Andy Ezrin, Kate McGarry, Peter Eldridge and Joel Frahm. On the track, “Here After,” Jonathan Brooke sings the duet while Rob Mounsey pens an exquisite string arrangement. The sophisticated and nuanced attention to detail is present throughout the recording. Jazziz publisher Michael Fagien says “I can’t stop listening to it. She mines deep reservoirs of emotion and experience throughout.”