Vocalist Lauren Kinhan is best known as a member of the vocal group, The NY Voices, as well as two other vocal ensembles, Moss, and JaLaLa. With JaLaLa, she was part of the memorable tribute to Johnny Mercer, "That Old Mercer Magic." She has just issued her second solo recording, "Avalon," (E1 Music), which displays her talents as a songwriter, and not simply a singer.
She has done this with some of her closest friends who happen to be some of New York’s finest musicians, including drummer and percussionist, who co-produced this with Lauren, and bassist Peter Nowinski who is on most of this. Peter Eldridge, fellow New York Voices band mate, plays piano and co-pens some songs. Jonatha Brooke joins her on “Here After” while Romero Lubambo guests on “Until You’re Mine” and “Here’s My Avalon” and Donny McAslin and Joel Frahm add their signature horn handiwork. Andy Ezrin is also featured on piano and B3 organ.
There is plenty of Brazilian accents heard throughout this as on the opening “Until You’re Mine,” with its light rhythms, and the marvelous song “Here’s My Avalon,” with a bit more fervent rhythm and some terrific horns (Joel Frahm’s alto sax is very impressive throughout as is Romero Lubambo’s guitar) on a love song she wrote for her daughter while away from home.while her scatting dances along with the band as the song rides out. “Here After,” is a dreamy pop number wonderfully sung with Jonatha Brook’s duet vocal, while “Move Over Sunshine,” has an uptown, bluesy flavor with brassy horns as she belts out the lyric in a most graceful manner.
An engrossing rhythm drives “Hide the Moon and Stars,” with lovely flute from Aaron Heick and a hint of flamenco in this romantic song. “Screaming Savoir Faire,” co-written with Andy Ezrin who plays piano as she sings, somewhat disconsolately, about her lover leaving and not keeping the promises he made. On a song like this one appreciates how she avoids coming off as maudlin, with her timing and phrasing of the lyric being enchanting. A bit of funk in the groove with some slide guitar accents on “Writing on the Wall,” as she effortlessly glides from whispering to trumpeting the lyric with vocal chorus support and Ezrin soloing on Fender Rhodes. “Savor the Wine,” is a rock styled number with Ben Butler setting the tone with his guitar against Eldridge’s piano, while the rhythm on “Dory and a Single Oar,” struts with Denny McCaslin adds some atmospheric tenor sax. The next two performances, “As If,” and “There Alone Go I,” have a bit more intimate backing and more lovely singing.
As she has showed over the past two decades, Lauren Kinham is a marvelous singer, able to handle pop and rock flavored material as effortlessly and heart fully as Brazilian sambas and Johnny Mercer standards. With the seamless backing and wonderful playing by the musicians behind her, she delights and enchants throughout with her songs and vocals on “Avalon.”
This review originally appeared in the June 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 326) at pp.16-17 (www.jazz-blues.com). The review copy was supplied by a distributor for the recording label.