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Music Review: Kristy – My Romance

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The debut album My Romance by Kristy feels like a time capsule. All of the tracks and the vocals feel like they were produced decades ago, but benefit from the cleaned up modern recording facilities. While Kristy has a definite direction and sense of maturity, the album does nothing to create a differentiation from every other female jazz vocalist. Kristy is a good jazz vocalist, but does nothing in the album to create any originality.

The whole of the album has a very small jazz club feeling with one or two tangents throughout. The arrangements focus on Kristy’s voice rather than extravagant strings and horns emphasizing Kristy’s ability to command a song with her airy vocals.

She uses her education in jazz history well, creating similar lilts in her voice to Billie Holiday. “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and “It Could Happen To You” proves that there is beauty in simplicity when a piece is arranged correctly. The song “Teach Me Tonight” is the best of the slow jazz vocals because it’s believable. Her vocals are sweet and have an inquisitive nature to it. Kristy has an ease in her vocals even hitting the higher notes of the song. The flugelhorn playing of Guido Basso is icing on the cake.

The song “Taking a Chance on Love” attempts to bring a bit more tempo into the album. While Kristy mastered the airy voice on the track, it sounds like every version of the song produced in the 1950s. Vocalists like June Christy or Dorothy Dandridge had their own variations, Christy’s airy execution and Dandridge’s vibrato sounded original back in the 50s, Kristy sounds too copy-cat for her own good. Another song “Just One of Those Things” had tempo issues where there were moments Kristy was being trampled by the backing music.

The classic Ray Charles song “You Don’t Know Me” seems to be covered by everyone under the sun; Kristy does a decent job with the song. While she is vocally in the right area, I don’t feel any emotion in the song. There’s more emotion in the Dobro player Kevin Breit.

There are small touches added into the album that break away from a small jazz feeling. The Beatles classic “Blackbird” is included in the album and while it’s faithful to the original, it doesn’t deviate and comes off as boring. The accompaniment of Matt Brubeck on cello is a nice touch and the break in the middle is great. The problem with Kristy on “Blackbird” is that she sounds as though she has limitation on mid-tempo music or even hitting the high note in the song. The song could have benefited from being slowed down.

The track “A Sleepin’ Bee” is also a change in musical direction; Kristy leads an a capella group. The arrangement sounds similar to The Andrews Sisters, or even reminiscent of The Jordanaires. Cadence, the a capella vocal choir, drown out Kristy with their solid vocals leaving her airy voice to struggle whenever both are singing at the same time.

The unsung hero in Kristy’s My Romance is Robi Botos. Both his piano and fender rhodes playing skills are amazing, but his piano playing shines throughout the whole album. He stands out in “I Remember You” because he understands how to play the piano with ease and knows how to compliment Kristy perfectly. Likewise on “Taking a Chance on Love” Botos gets to show just a percentage of his piano mastery. The album ends with “Bye Bye Blackbird” which is piano mastery making you forget that Kristy was even part of the song. There are moments in My Romance where you forget that Kristy is the main focus, but instead Robi Botos is the star and Kristy is just a guest vocalist.

The biggest concern that Kristy’s My Romance creates is the question of “What is next for Kristy?” While Kristy could survive making countless vocal jazz albums that cover classics, she will never gain any notoriety without a good original song. Likewise, if Kristy attempts another album with more original music, she may get lambasted for veering too far away from her first album. While Kristy has had experience as a songwriter, none of the tracks on the album are written by her. It would have been interesting to see how Kristy would have fit a song with more contemporary lyrics. My Romance is a a good album overall if you’re looking for a vocal jazz artist that understands her roots. If one is looking for a single track to test Kristy, I’d suggest “Teach Me Tonight.”

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About Michael Pascua