Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lauren Kinhan: Circle in a Square

Dotted i Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Circle in a Square

The big band years resulted in the formation of numerous instrumental groups, ranging in size from trios to full orchestras. Many featured vocalists who became as famous as the units with which they performed, although few were classified as jazz vocalists. Exceptions include icons such as Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, June Cristy and many more, most of whom mixed the jazz with popular songs. 

With the passage of time, many bands no longer could afford to carry vocalists. The truly famous soloists survived in other venues, while groups had to find another way to survive. The result was the creation of voice combos such as the Hi-Lo’s, the Four Freshman, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices; the singers used their voices as instruments.

Lauren Kinhan has been a member of the New York Voices since 1992, and the group celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013.

But Kinhan isn’t merely a vocalist; she’s also a composer, lyricist and producer. In the latter role, she co-founded two other vocal groups: Moss and JaLaLa. The former released its first CD (Moss) in 2008, and the disc went on to be listed in Downbeat’s Best CDs of the 2000s issueJaLaLa’s initial album (That Old Mercer Magic) hit the streets in 2009. Additionally, Kinhan has released solo albums: Hardly Blinking and Avalon. As for her compositional skills, she wrote or co-wrote all but two of the tunes on this new release, and also contributed the lyrics for all but one. 

The resulting album truly swings, due both to Kinhan and a wonderful cadre of instrumentalists. A bonus feature is the inclusion of printed lyrics; you appreciate each song even more. I had a blast listening to this; unless you’re not breathing, you should have just as much fun.

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