Kelley Johnson has become a highly regarded vocalist on today’s scene, a reputation that likely will be further boosted by her new album,Home (Sapphire). Nine of the twelve tracks find her backed by a piano trio, with either Geoffrey Keezer or John Hansen handling the keyboards. Jay Thomas contributes horns to three selections.
Johnson possesses a lovely voice, sometimes sweet and at times slightly smoky, while using horn-like phrasing to make the songs come alive. Her singing off the beat and extending her phrase is quite effective. There is a freshness in much of the material. She has an affection for Abbey Lincoln as she opens with Lincoln’s Should’ve Been, and Lincoln’s Living Room is party of a medley with the Lerner and Lowe standard Wouldn’t It Be Lovely. Thomas adds some nice muted trumpet on Irving Berlin’s Be Careful, It’s My Heart.
One of my favorite selections here is the lively rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s A Lovely Night, with her horn-like delivery of the lyrics matched by Hansen’s marvelous accompaniment and solo. Moon River comes off a bit dreamy with Thomas’ horns (I assume he multi-tracked his backing here) helping set the mood, while her delivery comes across too deliberate and a bit languid. Rose Colored Glasses in contrast bubbles with personality followed by a medley of her reciting her poem, From Here which launches into a lovely interpretation of Where Do You Start? with Hansen’s spare accompaniment adding to the mood she sets.
Produced by Johnson with pianist Hansen and drummer Jon Wikan, Home, is another welcome addition to the many worthy vocal releases that have come out recently. She caresses the songs she selects and given sympathetic backing has produced a multi-textured album that brings out new facets each time one listens.
This review was originally written for Jazz & Blues Report although I do not know if the review was published. I likely recieved a review copy from a publicist or from the publication..