Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jazzvox: In Your Own Backyard

OA2 Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: In Your Own Backyard

As the commercial venues for lesser-known jazz artists have decreased in numbers during recent years, “house concerts,” sponsored by serious fans of the genre, offer an alternative opportunity to support — and expose — these beginners to waiting audiences. Jazzvox is the Seattle area’s version of this trend.

In Your Own Backyard pays homage to vocalists who will be new to you, unless you live in the same area where they reside and work. As is usual for house concerts, the accompaniment for a featured artist often is limited to a single instrument, usually a piano, guitar or accordion. Alternatively, a vocalist sometimes plays an instrument while singing.

Of the nine artists featured here, three also are instrumentalists. John Proulx is his own pianist, Hanna Richardson plays guitar, and Kristin Korb is a virtuoso on the acoustic bass. Korb deserves special mention; she's outstanding on the instrument at any tempo ... which isn't surprising, considering that Ray Brown was one of her teachers.

All involved with this album are quite talented in specific ways. Kathleen Grace is a better pop vocalist than most who came up via the big band route; Kelly Johnson is a true jazz singer, whose version of "Blue Monk" is the best I’ve heard; aside from his other gifts, Proulx is a Grammy Award-winning composer; Jo Lawry has toured with Sting; and swinging Stephanie Nakasian has worked with Jon Hendricks.

This is a wonderfully talented — and promising — group of artists.

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