When Lauren began recording Avalon, the title track wasn’t even conceived, but the child was. “I began work on this project shortly after I became pregnant,” says Lauren. “It was a way to set a place marker before everything got completely reframed by the perspective of parenthood.” From that session came the thread that connects Hardly Blinking, Lauren’s debut recording, to Avalon.
“Savor the Wine” was written for her then new husband, but was not included in the HB line up. It also lives smack dab in the middle of Lauren’s transition from the music sitting on the more adult alternative side of things to tipping more toward the jazz scale. “Dory and a Single Oar” found a vibe that combined an intriguing form, a swingy bluesy melody and lyrics that told an evocative story. Having Donny McAslin wreak havoc on the tune completed her vision and set the pace for the rest of the music to follow.
Avalon is by no means a traditional jazz CD, but the way Lauren mixes her experience with that music, her love of the singer/songwriter narrative and blending great musicians with envelope bending music, you find yourself wondering what isn’t this music? Lauren isn’t a purist, she likes how words and music feel, that is the leading impulse.
Avalon was created over a long space of time. Balancing parenthood with touring in the New York Voices was already challenging. Finding free time to compose and perform became lifelines and ways to remember a muse that had been put away temporarily. While on tour in Uruguay, Lauren penned “Here is my Avalon,” the title track to the CD. It’s a love song from a mother to a daughter. Some momentum was gained by this and songs began to free flow from there. Other jewels are “There Alone Go I,” a unique poem that sings about letting go and reverence of self, seemingly polar themes elegantly united. Joining her on “Until You’re Mine” and “Here is my Avalon” is the one and only Romero Lubambo, while Joel Frahm threads his tenor into the title track so beautifully.
Jonatha Brooke shares the duet on “Here After”; an homage to the loss of a loved one. Other songs like “Hide the Moon and Stars” celebrate life and “Move Over Sunshine” yearns for the night to last. Rob Mounsey offers a gorgeous string arrangement, horn sections are added here and there and Lauren’s voice is the narrator and ring leader throughout.
Ben Wittman co produces this collection with her, adding his extraordinary sensibilities as a drummer, arranger, composer and engineer. Jack of all trades, master of all.
Avalon, “you’re mine for now.”
Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times, July 2010
It is a little-known fact that Lauren Kinhan made her solo debut 11 years ago with Hardly Blinking, a Phil Ramone-produced album that never quite realized proper release (though it is now fully accessible via iTunes). since then, Kinhan’s work with New York Voices, plus her expanded vocal-group duties as a member of both Moss and with Janis Siegel and Laurel Massé, JaLaLa, left little time to focus on a second solo project. Hence, Avalon, a dazzling showcase for both her singing and songwriting skills, has been years in the making. Teaming with such top-flight players as bassist Stephan Crump, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and Joel Frahm, guitarist Romero Lubambo, pianist and Voices’ confrere Peter Eldridge and Moss mate Kate McGarry (twice providing backing vocals), Kinhan shows off her slightly smoky, blues-tinged also to gloriously deft advantage.
Kinhan wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs. Spanning multiple genres, from jazz-infused folk and country to samba and funk, they embrace an equally diverse assortment of themes. Sweet surprises lurk around every corner; shimmering desire of “Until You’re Mine,” with its subtly predatory underscoring; the down ’n’ dirty lustiness of “Move Over Sunshine”; the icy sagacity of “Screaming Savoir Faire”; the cozy, familial warmth of the quasi-title track, “Here is my Avalon” (complete with a clever nod to the Al Jolson-penned Puccini-based “Avalon”). These and the seven other equally poetic tracks shape a pastiche that is hip, intelligent and vibrant.
Vocalist and Composer Lauren Kinhan has amassed some impressive credentials during her 21 years in New York City. In addition to her own band, she also works with groups such as the New York Voices, Moss (with Luciana Souza, Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann and Peter Eldridge) and JaLaLa (with Janis Siegel and Laurel Massé). On her recent releases Avalon (E1), Kinhan has recruited A-level talent such as guitarist Romero Lubambo, saxophonists Joel Frahm and Donny McAslin, bassist Stephan Crump and percussionist Jay Ashby. Kinhan’s original songs are the stars, however, as she mines deep reservoirs of emotion and experience on tracks such as the moving “Here After,” our selection. With Eldridge’s sparkling piano, Jody Redhage’s stirring cello and Jonatha Brooke’s harmony vocals, Kinhan sings of a lost loved one whose presence is reflected in “a page dog-eared on the console” and a “lazy chair in recline.”
Tom Cunniffe, Examiner.com
Lauren Kinhan: Bridging Genres.
Lauren Kinhan, an 18-year veteran of that most musical of vocal quartets, the New York Voices, has just released a new solo CD, Avalon (E1 Records 2062). While Kinhan has shown her knowledge and love of classic song standards in countless recordings, the title “Avalon” does not refer to the old standard made famous by Benny Goodman. Rather, it is the partial title of one of 11 original songs on the CD. Taken together, the songs tell the story of a long-term relationship, with multiple story arcs representing the stops and starts of love, marriage and parenthood. The songs work together in a cycle with common themes overlapping from one song to the next. Kinhan wrote nearly all the lyrics on the CD (a sampling of her more poetic phrases are included in a word collage on the inside back liner), composed the music for four songs on her own, and collaborated on the music for all the rest.
Musically, the CD is impeccable. The personnel includes some of New York’s finest musicians, and in addition to their fine solo work, they play together as they’ve been band mates for the last 20 years. As in recent recordings by NYV, Kinhan’s CD embraces a multitude of genres without making any individual tunes fit into a particular mode. For example, “Move Over Sunshine” has elements of jazz, country, soul and spirituals, and it all works together because the music is composed, arranged, performed and produced at such a high level. Kinhan sings magnificently throughout, consistently showing superb taste and extraordinary vocal technique as she moves effortlessly from song to song. This is a CD that can be appreciated by a wide range of listeners, no matter what genres of music they say they prefer. Duke Ellington used to say that there were only two types of music: good and bad. File this CD under “very good.”
Denver Jazz Examiner, Thomas Cunniffe
Lauren Kinhan shines in live set at the Soiled Dove.
Before an enthusiastic crowd at the Soiled Dove Underground, New York Voices member Lauren Kinhan displayed her prowess as a powerful solo artist. As part of a tour supporting her newest solo CD, Avalon, the repertoire included nearly all of the songs from that album, but Kinhan also included a selection from her first solo CD, a new original and a classic standard.
Pianist/vocalist Peter Eldridge, who performs with Kinhan in NYV and Moss, anchored the backup band, which included Bob Rebholz on saxophones and flute, Mark Simon on bass and Paul Romaine on drums. The band played with remarkable cohesion, despite the fact that they had only seen the arrangements for the first time that afternoon. As Rebholz said to me after the set, Kinhan’s and Eldridge’s clear and well-written charts were an important ingredient in the excellence of the performance.
At the beginning of the set, the songs seemed to hew to the recorded performances. But in the fourth number, “Dory And A Single Oar,” Kinhan and Rebholz exchanged improvised ideas, and the entire band seemed to loosen up. Later, on a sassy Latin version of “Alone Together,” all of the members of the band got solo turns, with Kinhan contributing a brilliant scat solo. In tribute to a troop fighting in Afghanistan, Kinhan videotaped one of the numbers from her set. Her rocking version of “Savor The Wine” will be sent as a card to these brave soldiers. Other highlights included a new rubato ballad by Kinhan and Eldridge, “The Deep Within,” and a joyous version of “Here Is My Avalon” with impressive background vocals by Kinhan’s young daughter, Ella.
From the gathering of well-wishers after the performance, it’s clear that Kinhan has many friends here in Denver. It’s also clear that she makes new friends whenever people hear her sing. Let us hope that returns to Denver in the near future.
Margarita Cullimore, KMUN’s Sonidos Latinos host
Lauren Kinhan’s voice pulls you into her intimate circle of friends while at the same time she has a universal presence. Lauren’s original songs change the mood of the moment. Whether it is a jazz tune, or a saucy mambo or samba, the listener will feel inspired and drawn into the world of Lauren Kinhan’s songs ... of her silky smooth and vibrant voice. She is an exceptional performer not to be missed.
All Music Guide, Alex Henderson
If a member of a jazz vocal group records a solo album and the artist hasn’t been doing a lot of recording on his/her own, the question inevitably becomes: will the solo project closely resemble the group’s output, or will it be an opportunity for him/her to try something different? In the case of Lauren Kinhan, the latter is definitely applicable. Kinhan is best known for her work with the adventurous New York Voices, which she joined in 1992 (replacing Sara Krieger) and was still a member of 18 years later in mid-2010, but her second solo album, Avalon, doesn’t follow in New York Voices’ jazz-oriented footsteps. Avalon is jazz-influenced, certainly, but it isn’t really jazz-oriented; instead, Kinhan the solo artist generally favors what is probably best described as jazzy adult alternative along the lines of Norah Jones or Julia Fordham. Of course, jazz snobs — being the very predictable and knee-jerk individuals that they are — will no doubt denounce Avalon as Kinhan’s sell-out album. But then, Kinhan (who wrote or co-wrote everything on this 49-minute CD) never claimed to be a jazz purist; her previous solo album, 2000’s Hardly Blinking, was produced by none other than Phil Ramone — not Orrin Keepnews, not Todd Barkan, or even Creed Taylor, but Phil Ramone. Kinhan obviously needed to express more of her pop/rock side, and she does so with enjoyably satisfying results on introspective solo items such as “Hide the Moon and Stars,”; “Here After,” and “There Alone Go I.” Besides, it isn’t as though New York Voices have been violently opposed to pop/rock material; one of their most interesting albums is a jazz tribute to Paul Simon. But Avalon isn’t about jazz interpretations of pop/rock tunes; this is mostly an album of pop/rock/adult alternative with jazz overtones, and listeners who are broad-minded rather than doctrinaire in their thinking will find Avalon to be a likable solo effort from the long-time New York Voices member.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Bob Karlovitis Lauren Kinhan is not only a marvelous singer, but Avalon shows she is a good songwriter, as well. She wrote or took part in the composition of all 12 songs on the album and is successful on all of them. Not only are the songs immensely agreeable, they also show off the range of her vocal talents. “Here is My Avalon” lets her sail through brightly soprano lines, but when she drops into deeper registers, as on “Until You’re Mine,” the voice is low, not rough. The songs are sung to arrangements that go from a quartet on the lovely “There Alone Go I” to a frequent use of eight musicians and even 10 three times. Those bigger groups involve such players as saxophonist Joel Frahm and pianist Peter Eldridge, from New York Voices of which she is a member, to saxophonist Donny McCaslin and McCandless’ Jay Ashby on percussion.
Mark Niemann-Ross, Oregon Music News Lauren Kinhan is one serious Jazz vocalist. Forget that she graduated from Berklee College of Music, or that she’s on the Board of Governors for the Recording Academy. Forget that she regularly performs with Jazz names you know (Ornette, McFerrin and others). Forget that she’s been doing this for about ten years. Just don’t forget that she wrote every song on her latest album, Avalon. (she did). And for grins, she arranges the horn section.
Avalon is not “another female vocalist recording Jazz standards.” Refreshingly, Kinhan’s originals represent a broad, but coherent range of sounds. For example, “Screaming Savoir Faire” has a touch of Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sisters.” The two songs would mesh nicely on a CD mix. In contrast, “Savor the Wine” has a bluesy, gospel feel — something for the Bonnie Raitt fans in the audience. Then consider “Dory and a Single Oar,” which bounces into Tom Waits territory — sans his growly voice, but with that same jerky velocity and dark lyrics.