CD REVIEW: Karen Blixt – Spin This
By Francesco Emmanuel - 09/23/2006 - 12:40 AM EDT
Artist: Karen Blixt
Album: Spin This
San Francisco-based jazz singer Karen Blixt has released her first album ‘Spin This’ on HiFli Records. After singing in the jazz circuit for over ten years, Karen’s first release is smooth and crisp, professional and superbly produced. The album was recorded at Marin County’s infamous Skywalker Sound and was engineered by Leslie Ann Jones.
Not only did Karen get veteran jazz/pop producer Frank Martin to come onboard, she’s accompanied by many great musicians. The list is long but includes Grammy-nominated organ B-3 phenomenon Joey DeFrancesco, famed Peruvian Grammy-nominated percussionist/drummer Alex Acuña, vibes legend Buddy Montgomery, Grammy-nominated reed player Paul McCandles and Yellowjackets’ keyboardist Russell Ferrante, drummer Will Kennedy and bassist Brain Bromberg (On another note I had the honor of seeing Yellowjackets perform live many years ago, and I was blown away, so the fact that Karen had these gentlemen play on her record says something – you know she’s good!).
Other musicians include Bruce Forman on guitars, Darek Oles on acoustic bass and Joe Herbert on cello.
Karen co-founded her own label along with long-time college friend Lisa Thomas to release her ‘spin’ on things. The album is a collection of classic jazz hits; including songs by Count Basie, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis. I particularly liked her version of ‘You don’t know me’ by Eddie Arnold and Cindy Walker. She does a light hearted version of ‘When you’re smiling’; here Joey DeFrancesco does a great job on vocals as well. Karen has a nice mid-range tone to her singing, strong but yet soft and relaxed.
Along with these timeless covers, there are three originals co-written with Frank Martin. The title track is an anti-Bush song (I like her even more now), her other two creations, ‘Kitchen Blue’ and ‘Something so true’ are very well written and produced, the latter which closes off the album is a somber piano piece.
Raised in upstate New York, Karen began singing at a very early age in church, where her mother played church organ, but even then she would ‘jazz up’ the church hymns, she would improvise the hymnbook, much to her mother’s dismay. Karen always had a knack for singing jazz. Some years ago she took a road trip to Berkeley, California and what was once thought to be a temporary visit turned into Karen establishing herself in the Bay Area jazz scene.
Fast forward to present day and the result of all that hard work is Karen’s brilliant debut. It is worth the wait, the album is jazz in its purest form – free and improvised, with a fresh take on things.
I’m pretty sure Karen is out somewhere in San Francisco, expanding her reach across the coast, crooning her heart out. And I’m sure listeners will be spinning her latest, for a long time to come.
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