Monday, November 08, 2010

Robin McKelle's Big Band Vocals

Robin McKelle at
2007 Montreal Jazz Festival
I had an opportunity to see Robin McKelle, the first time I went to the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2007. Her vivacious personality came across in her performance as well as her strong vocals. The following review appeared in the November 2008, Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 310) although I have made a few stylistic changes in the text. This CD is still readily available.

Berklee alumni Robin McKelle has just issued a new album, Modern Antique (Cheap Lullaby). It is at least her second album and she performs and number of standards along with some intriguing and unusual material backed by a big band; sometimes horn driven and other times strings dominated.

McKelle is quite a good singer, if occasionally she comes off as cute and sultry. McKelle, at times, reminds me of Streisand, with a jazzier delivery. Things kick off on a terrific start with a hard swinging rendition of the surprising opening number, Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra.“ Kudos to the very imaginative arrangement of this song, which is followed by a hot Latin groove for her take of “Come Love.” The ballad “I Want to Be Love,” with strings and reed accompaniment, is done as a torch song and some might suggest she overdoes her singing here.

Lover Man” opens and built around a funky bass riff that sets the groove, whereas she returns us to Heaven with a Basie-like arrangement for “Cheek to Cheek.” Strings frame her singing for the lovely ballad “Day By Day,” followed by the Buddy Johnson blue ballad, “Save Your Love For Me,” a rendition that contrasts to Ella Johnson’s original recording with brother Buddy’s orchestra, but not as satisfying as Charles Brown’s suave interpretation of this marvelous song.

Other noteworthy performances include the sprite “
Lullaby of Birdland,” and “Make Someone Happy,” with strings and nice trumpet and her nicely delivery of the lyric that perhaps evokes Streisand the most. The album concludes with McKelle’s own “Remember,” with her piano and the strings for accompaniment, a lovely song of lost love.

Special commendation to Willie Murillo who produced this and contributed several of the arrangements. When I saw McKelle in Montreal, she was backed by a combo, but she certainly is not overpowered by the full big band accompaniment she receives here. Its a marvelous and rewarding recording.

For FTC purposes, I received my review copy from Jazz & Blues Report.

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