Vocalist Karen Ristuben hails from the Boston area and her album, “Too Much” (Daring Records), should have appeal to fans of traditionally rooted swing jazz with a few contemporary touches. A long-winding career from art student to paralegal and the attorney has had go full circle to her earlier days singing with her guitar. Producer Mason Daring has brought together some top-flight musicians including guitarist Duke Levine, bassist Marty Ballow, drummer Per Hansen among her accompaniments.
She sings in a languorous style that helps project a demure flavor to her performances, which opens with a Bob Dorough number “Devil May Care,” with Kevin Barry contributing some pedal steel and Billy Novick adding nicely stated clarinet that evokes the classic swing era. Her dreamy style really suits the Ellington-Strayhorn classic “Daydream,” on which Barry’s pedal steel adds to the mood while Levine takes a nice solo with Novick’s clarinet providing a nice background for his playing. Daring’s original blue-ballad “Funny,” sports a lovely baritone solo from Mark Earley behind her wistful delivery of the song.
An Antonio Jobim bossa nova, “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)” is a most sympathetic vehicle for her dreamy style with Earley in a Stan Getz vein on tenor. The peppy “Stay Out of My Dreams,” is enjoyable with Earley a bit more assertive sounding on tenor with an attractive rhythm section of Brad Harfield on piano, Rory McKenzie on electric bass and Dave Mattacks on drums. it is followed by “Still We Dream”, a vocal adaptation of Monk’s “Ugly Beauty,” with Gus Sebring added to this rhythm on French horn on Ristuben’s atmospheric vocal. The standard “I Remember You,” is taken as a bossa nova with more nice Novick on clarinet and enjoyable although the stylized vocals comes off a tad bit too lackadaisical here as it also does on “Cry Me a River.” Not to say these are not enjoyable, just not as compelling to these ears as other performances here.
While not perfect, there is plenty to enjoy about “Too MUch,” with its attractive playing and Ristuben’s intriguing and oft-moving vocals. It is available for purchase on downloads from itunes as well as on CD from http://www.karenristubenmusic.com/store.html.
For FTC purposes the review copy was provided by a publicist for the recording.