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Three fine jazz singers take an original approach to their repertoire.

Music Reviews: Kelly Suttenfield, Kaoruko Pilkington, Nancy Kelly

Kelly SuttenfieldAmong the Stars

Among the Stars, a collection of mostly late 20th century tunes exotically reinterpreted, is the second album from hush-voiced chanteuse Kelly Suttenfield. Accompanied by the guitar of Tony Romano, the singer puts her own idiosyncratic take on songs by the likes of Goffin and King, Neil Young, and K. D. Lang. Although she begins the set with a classic, albeit slowed-down, version of “Fly Me to the Moon” and later on adds “People Will Say We’re in Love,” this is the extent of her nod to the more or less traditional jazz repertoire.Suttenfied

It’s with “One Fine Day,” “Harvest Moon,” and “Wash Me Clean” that she finds her groove. These are songs sung like you’ve not heard them before. In her hands they are awash with emotional intensity. They are performances you are not likely to forget. Indeed the same is true for her take on Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You to Go” and Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” When she does take on a jazz classic like “Just Say I Love Him,” where she’s competing with someone like Nina Simone, her version, while fine, loses a bit of its luster.

 

Kaoruko PilkingtonBright side of My Life

Kaoruko Pilkington’s self-produced Bright side of My Life, released early this month, is the jazz vocalist’s second album, coming 14 years after her debut disc, Joy Spring—a long wait, but worth it. Working with the same musicians over those years, this is a singer and an ensemble that speaks the same musical language. They know each other well, and it shows in the tightly played arrangements that highlight the singer’s cool sound.

PilkHer repertoire is a mix of tunes from the Great American Songbook joined with contemporary pop songs. And what she manages to do is breathe new life into the old songs, while giving the newer pieces a jazz vibe that puts them in a whole new light. She does a lot of scatting and vocalise, playing her voice like the dynamic instrument it clearly is. Old warhorses like “Night and Day” and “What is This Thing Called Love” are reinvigorated in her hands. More contemporary pieces like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” are transformed with the originality of Pilkington’s interpretations.

Nancy KellyB That Way
Backed by a talented Hammond organ quartet, Nancy Kelly swings her way through a set mixing mostly classic tunes with a couple of lesser-known pieces on her August release B That Way. And while Kelly may not be as well known as some of the more hyped jazz singers, if this album is any indication that is our loss. In the tradition of the great jazz songstresses, she is a professional who knows her way around a song. She sings with a clarity and detail that honors the lyric of each and song she works on.

Whether she is working with a standard like “Come Back to Me” which opens the album, or bopping her way through “Billie’s Bounce,” a Charlie Parker/Jon Hendricks composition, her readings are electric. She kills ballads like “Here’s Looking at You” and “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me.”nkcoveronly

Her accompaniment is top of the line, and when they are given a couple of solo bars they shine. Jerry Weldon plays tenor sax, Dinor Losito, the Hammond organ, Peter Bernstein, guitar and Carmen Intorre the drums. They can combine with Kelly a feisty version of Curtis Lewis’ “The Great City” on the one hand and a softly sensitive “Don’t Go to Strangers.”

B That Way is an album that delivers the goods.

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