I don’t know where 2017 is going. It feels like so much life has been lived and miles traveled since we went into the studio to record my fourth solo outing, A Sleepin’ Bee. On January 1st, I called my partner and dear pal, Elliot Schiener to wish him a happy new year, and then we got to talking about my project I had developed paying homage to Nancy Wilson. I wondered how we’d go about getting it done, and he had an idea. We pitched it to Berklee College of Music as kind of an educational exchange and in return we’d record in their state of the art gorgeous Shames Family Scoring Stage. They were totally down, the only catch was they only had two weekends this could take place, either end of January or beginning of February. So we had to act fast to gather musicians that were available to both rehearse and record on very specific days. Luckily, we came up with a stellar crew. At the helm is my arranging partner on the project, Andy Ezrin, pianist extraordinaire. We lassoed Matt Penman and Jared Schonig to round out the trio. And I’m thrilled that my pal from my Berklee days, Ingrid Jensen, could join us on a few tracks. The rehearsal went smoothly due to Andy and I working out the repertoire during a residency at the Jazz Loft on Long Island in 2016. We had already finessed much of the music with Matt Wilson, Ben Allison and Jay Anderson, interchangeably, so it was in good shape. With the time constraints, these fellows weren’t available, so we forged happily ahead with these fine folks and found our own nuances. I’m so happy that we were able to go in 1960’s style, and record the whole set in 2 days, doors open, set up tight, listening and playing into the moment. It was a beautiful experience.
And our friends at Berklee College of Music, my alma mater, were as supportive! They set us up with terrific students who aided Elliot Schiener at the console and setting up the room. The session ran beautifully. With Hal Leonard there doing a three camera shoot, we captured footage for Elliot’s new teaching module and I am the beneficiary of the footage to edit into a ‘making of’ video when I come up for air.
Fast forward to September, I’m busy thanking my Kickstarter family that helped me to raise the money on the back end to finish the production and get it to market. The session happened so fast, there was no time to launch it before, so with the help Christen and Mark Allsop (my sister and brother-in-law), we forged full steam ahead, seizing the great opportunity without hesitation. If you backed A Sleepin’ Bee, you are already enjoying an advance promo copy for your generosity and support!!
The official release is October 6, 2017. It is available for pre order at iTunes and it will be delivered on the ‘drop’ date. Otherwise, you may order it at CDBaby, Amazon, Apple Music or my website, where you can always get an autographed copy sent right from my house to yours.
Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times did a lovely feature of the record in the October Issue. I’m so appreciative of this. You can read the full article in my NEWS section or it’s in the REVIEW section on the A Sleepin’ Bee page.
I’m crossing my fingers people will enjoy this record as much as I did making it. It was like going home again. Remembering why I fell in love with music in the first place. Those early records that I gravitated toward and found that that music lived inside me as well. So thank you Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing, specifically, for the inspiration to send me down this garden path. I hope A Sleepin’ Bee is your cup of tea.
A special listening station will be set up soon. We’re catching up on a million things. So please enjoy the short clips in the meantime.
While we are waiting for this to arrive, I’m leaving up the listening for 2014’s Circle in a Square.
Circle in a Square was an amazing opportunity to gather my favorite musicians and producer and stage each of these 12 original songs in the best light we could see. Always, inspiration happens in a moment, and if you are lucky to capture it, to bottle it, well, you’ve got something that remains alive and vibrant for a long time. I think the community and love that it took to make this recording is what I am most proud of. I hope the songs take you on a storied ride and you are able to hear all the nuances that we so carefully dotted in and around with as light and unaffected a touch as we could manage.
Happy Listening, may your ears be open to new textures, notes and words, and your mind be unencumbered to just let it in.
Now here’s what the reviewers said about Circle in a Square:
Lauren Kinhan’s Circle in a Square is a Tour de Force.
4 Stars! Kinhan executes the most intricate of passages flawlessly, whether jumping octaves at high speed or romping through the bebop changes. “The Deep Within,” a tone poem of spiritual yearning, is a stunner.
-Allen Morrison, Downbeat Magazine
The next time someone tells you that modern music is soulless, does not “speak” to the human condition, refer them to “Circle In A Square.” Lauren Kinhan and her ensemble have created music that artfully and splendidly avoids labels such as jazz, pop or funk; this is music that connects on multiple levels with grace, fire and a mature understanding of how one navigates through the shifty terrain of modern life. Dig deeply! As attractive as this music is on initial listening (Elliot Schneiner’s production and engineering makes each instrument stand out without hiding the vocal), it’s the strength of the songs and the vocals that makes the deepest impression. Ms. Kinhan’s emotional delivery, her ability to bend a note to make a word sustain, and the poetry in much of the program is a joy to return to time and again. And, she can swing!
– Richard Kamins, Step Tempest
Lauren Kinhan….is a tremendously gifted jazz singer. The added advantage of Kinhan’s individual releases is that they showcase her estimable songwriting dexterity…She opens with the free-floating title track, a joyous reconfirmation that music is the food of love….Kinhan has never shone brighter.
– Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times
I have a feeling that this recording might make some people’s top ten lists when it comes to the end of the year.
– Randy McElligott, CHUO Radio, Ottawa
There are layers of texture, organic bits of lyrical wonder that magically fuse together to make a contemporary mosaic of harmonic wonder that sets a new standard for improvisational vocalists everywhere. The sorority of female vocalists is a tightly clustered pack with Lauren Kinhan making a bold new statement that bodes well for the future. Nothing to grind on here, it simply does not get much better than this. 5 Stars!
– Brent Black, Bop-N-Jazz, Blog
Lauren Kinhan has an album that arouses my memories of those early stereo days. The artwork clearly sets the atmosphere. Early sixties. Hi-Fidelity. Her luscious, velvet voice is a good place to rest your weary head. I don’t listen to a lot of vocal jazz, but I keep coming back to this one. The band behind her is brilliant…. The melody and narrative are all on stage. You need to keep coming back to this to get the whole point of jazz. Lauren Kinhan is someone to come back to.
– Ken Blanchard, JazznotesSDP, Blog
Lauren Kinhan steps out for her third solo outing with a load of first call big apple jazzbos in tow. Amazingly enough, this set sounds familiar but sounds like nothing you’ve heard before. Working without limitations, she pursues her muse at several levels giving us a nu kind of jazz thrush without the tortured artist effect on board. A solidly swinging set that’s in the pocket throughout, this is a powerful outing that never fails to connect. Hot stuff.
– Chris Specter, Midwest Record
Circle In A Square is an impressive album, which captures this singer and composer in the prime of her musical career.
-Be Bop Spoken Here (Review by Debra Milne)
4 Stars! Kinhan’s third album release shows her as a vocal tour de force; her songwriting abilities are here also given the limelight, with all the tracks written or co-written by her. These twisting, unpredictable tunes seem to offer up more on each repeat listen, with Kinhan’s supple voice running at full pelt through a broad musical palette. She’s a fan of Joni Mitchell and Mitchell’s influence can be heard in the effortless slides between octaves. Pinpoint vocal precision is complemented well by Randy Brecker guesting on trumpet in the title track.
– Sally Evans-Darby, Jazz Journal
Kinhan shows off vocal prowess in Circle in a Square. It allows her to show off not only her voice, but also her writing skills. She gets lead billing on 10 of the 12 songs and shares the writing role on the other two. The songs include post-modern pieces such as the title track, a slightly brooding “Another Hill to Climb” and the clever “Bear Walk,” a jazz telling of the Three Bears story. Whatever the direction, the songs all let her show off a voice that can spring into the upper register, do some scat a bit or handle lovely lyrics.
– Bob Karlovits, The Tribune
The opening tune is the title piece and is such a perfectly constructed piece with a jazz-pop sensibility, it might be the contemporary missing link of what Frank Sinatra was in the 1940s and ’50s.’ Kinhan does not belabor the piece with duplicates throughout Circle. Instead, she proceeds through the late-night feel of “Another Hill to Climb” and slick R&B flavored “I’m Looking for That Number.” “Pocketful of Harlem” is edgy and modern, instrumentally a showcase for Kinhan’s solid alto chimes. This singer’s solo recordings stand in fine and forward-thinking contrast to her durable work with New York Voices.
– C Michael Bailey, Allaboutjazz.com
Circle in a Square is Kinhan’s best album to date, and a brilliant realization of her diverse musical world…. the music incorporates swing, bebop, rumba, chanson, R&B, soul, funk and pop. But the number of elements is less striking than the way Kinhan mixes them into her own style.
– Thomas Cunniffe, Jazz History Online, Concert Review
Circle In A Square is excellent and a lesson in contemporary singing, composing and lyrics.
– Don Albert, Art Spoken
It’s modern contemporary jazz song smithing of the highest order. And her singing has the marvelous nuance that makes her formidable. It’s more than a keeper; it’s a killer in what it does to/for you!
– Greggo Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review
There’s nothing affected or “elliptical” about her approach; she embodies the voice of New York, swinging for the fences with satisfying affability.
– Jordan Richardson on May 12, 2014, Canadian Audiofile
Her full-bodied & sultry approach to jazz vocalization will enchant you in the immediate. I give Lauren & friends a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a full-blown 5.00 “EQ” (energy quotient) rating. That means it also gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best vocal jazz”.
-Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation Nation Magazine, May, 2014