Lightning in a bottle

They say timing is everything.  I say, being ready for timing is everything.  And so the following dream came true as thus…….

I thought my last CD’s message was all about life coming full circle, hence the title Circle in a Square, but this latest project is that and some, kinda feels like Lightning in a Bottle.  At the top of 2017, Elliot Scheiner and I found ourselves at my alma mater Berklee College of Music’s new state of the art recording studio, The Shames Family Scoring Stage, recording my latest collection of songs.  I’ve spent my career writing and producing my original music and I thought is was about time to go back to where it all started, on my living room floor in Phoenix, Arizona, listening to my parent’s record collection.  Of the many albums that I played over and over, one in particular made an impresson early on.  The songs and performances were perfectly crafted and produced featuring an up and coming jazz chanteuse, Nancy Wilson on a collaborative record she made with Cannonball Adderley.  unnamedHe convinced Nancy to come to New York from her home state Ohio and she quickly found herself with a record deal and recording with some of the best jazz musicians of the time.  Her soulful horn like resonance and phrasing, and her bewitching beauty made the whole world fall in love.  But as a kid, I really didn’t understand things like that, I only knew that I loved her voice and the way the music made me feel.  That was enough for me to learn all the songs way back then.  They have stayed with me throughout my life, an indellible impression on my heart like a tattoo.

So when I was thinking about what my next musical project would be, I thought it was time to address the standards.  I’ve consciously waited this long to feel certain about my point of view and now it feels like a welcome friend to give myself over to the Great American Songbook.  I’m not big of themed CDs, but when musing on the prospect, the idea of paying tribute to Nancy Wilson and this iconic record with Cannonball came booming through my head.  “Go home, go back to the beginning,” my instincts said.  As I dug deep into that record, it quickly became clear that more repertoire would be needed, since half the project was instrumental tracks, so I started at the beginning of her career to cull songs from “Like in Love,” “Something Wonderful,” “The Swingin’s Mutual,” “Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderly,” “Hello Young Lovers,” and “How Glad I Am.”  That was a far as I got, there was so much there from 1959-1964 to dig around and discover.  I developed 13 songs and settled on 11 for the recording.  It’s a healthy combination of deconstructing some of the songs and others being a nice nod to the existing performances.  Ideally, it’s equal parts celebration of a great singer while leaving plenty of room for me to play and push around the notes.

2017-02-03 10.47.51Andy Ezrin, who I first met when I joined New York Voices, has remained one of my very favorite pianists.  He and I began getting together batting around arranging ideas and developing the songs in 2016.  Over the course of the year we played a handful of shows and brought the music to life on the bandstand.  Looming large was what was the next step…?

The new year changed over and I was still trying to figure out how to launch a Kickstarter to  get us and the music into the recording studio.

I called Elliot Scheiner, my partner on Circle in a Square and mega star in all things audio.  On New Years Day we spoke on the phone and found ourselves talking about how to get this into motion.  He had an idea to reach out to Berklee College of imagejpeg_0Music and offer this as an educational Master Class at the top of their semester to showcase the facility, his mic-ing and recording techniques and capture myself and my band performing a full set of music.  The specific goal was to go for live takes and complete a record in the jazz tradition in two days.  Hal Leonard joined this ambitious undertaking to capture the whole weekend on video for further educational material and for me to use to help tell the story.  Suddenly, this became a mega weekend, ripe with high expectations and pressure, and there was no turning back.  If I dwelled in the worry, I could easily have thought twice about the scope, but instead, I knew Andy and I could get the band ready and look to our mentoring skills to lure away the ego and put that energy into passing the baton and practising what we preach.

In short order a project went from a question mark to a reality.  And even more so, a returning home to my Alma Mater where discovering my profound love affair with music would continue to be an unfailing and unquenchable desire hence forward.

I so enjoyed working on this music with Matt Wilson and Ben Allison early on, but both of their schedules prevented them from being available for this last minute date.  We booked Jared Schonig and Matt Penman and had one long rehearsal a few days before the session.  Ingrid Jensen joined us the day of the recording session without a rehearsal.  They all brought a soulful, unnameddedicated sense to the task, highly attuned artistry and joy of being a part of the teaching dynamic.  It was a magical collection of musicians surrounded by an energized and curious student body and teaching staff throughout the recording sessions.  There were many students and teachers coming and going throughout, taking in the Master Class, but there was a mighty few that stayed for the whole thing, becoming totally invested with the experience.  In the end, we all shared lightening in a bottle, all conditions were ideal, everyone performed and completed tasks on point, the music stood the test of scrutiny, and there was a huge sense of pride in what was accomplished.

We all reluctantly returned to the real world.  The Super Bowl was on deck, it would seem high priority to get thee to the beer and wings.  But we all stood frozen, knowing that as soon as we exited, the bubble would burst and life would return as we knew it.  So the music will tell our story.   “A Sleepin’ Bee” was awoken.   It was one of the most sacred experiences I have ever had in the studio in the midst of all the company and commotion.  And I am so grateful to all the players that made this miraculous weekend happen.  Following this is a list of thank yous.  It must be said.

Next step is mixing in mid March.  The faithful students that hung for the weekend, and they know who they are, are invited to be in the room while Elliot mixes.  How ridiculously cool is that?  And so we begin the artwork, and the next phase of how to get this out to market.  Stay tuned for that news, there will surely be some.unnamed-1

In the meantime, happy birthday Nancy Wilson.  Your musical legacy is most humbly and graciously appreciated….by so many of us.

Yours Sincerely,

Lauren Kinhan

 

Big thanks to Elliot Scheiner, Musicians, Andy Ezrin, Matt Penman, Jared Schonig, Ingrid Jensen, Berklee College of Music Teachers and Administration, Carl Beatty, Rob Jaczko, Mark Wessel, Dan Thompson, the film crew for Hal Leonard, and student engineers, Andres Abello, Pedro Calloni and Loren Dorland.  Also special thanks to my niece Lolly Allsop who was a brilliant assistant and partner in crime and to Chris and Mark Allsop for making sure we could pull this rabbit out of our hat tout suite!2017-02-05 19.23.59

Let Freedom Sing

I really don’t know where to begin. Facebook, like a secret lover, has whisked me away from my duties of sharing on this platform.  It used to be I felt weird self promoting.  All that “look at me, see what I’m doing, I’ve got a cool life” kind of stuff, it was strange.  Then I started to dip my toe in, “look at me here with NYV, look at these super cool students and bands we’re working with, etc.”  Soon it became a living, breathing talking photo album, anecdotal, informational, out of body, 24 hour streaming infomercial.  And you can see what others are up to, too, someone got married, someone’s fighting cancer, a student graduated from college, a distant relative attended a party.  It’s all there for our voracious curiosity.  I’ll admit it, I’m a voyeur.  I’m living and breathing the Facebook fantasy.

But in today’s historic social upheaval, I’m not looking for it to be my People magazine of days gone by anymore.  Nothing is the same since November 9, 2016.  I feel like I’m living in the upside down world; everything I have ever valued is being reflected in it’s polar opposite apparition. It’s as if my pocketbook has been dumped over and everything has fallen out, things that were MINE; loose change, lipstick, business cards, keys, crumbs, reading glasses, playbills, empty candy wrappers, wallet, all on the floor.  And now nothing is recognizable as you try to put it all back in.  You can’t, it doesn’t fit anymore, because the reality has changed.  The pocketbook is stiffer, smaller, restrictive, un-welcoming, the zippers have sharper teeth, and it can no longer tolerate certain shapes and sizes.  Yah, the United States is suddenly unforgiving, inhospitable and in someone else’s pocketbook.  We lost our souls with the ushering in of the Trump regime, we went to sleep a barely Democracy November 8, and we woke up to a surreal game of the Apprentice on the Grand Stage where Trump is the King of Hearts shouting “off with his head” and everyone is drinking the same cocktail, with a float of paranoia.

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My amazing students Hannah Martin and Laura Douthit who inspire me to be a better teacher and role model everyday. Thanks for being the very essence of who I am fighting for everyday. I love you.

I hate it, I’m ashamed, I can’t seem to get back to work.  Were it not for bookings already in the calendar, I’d be totally undone.  But like everyone else in their various shades of despair, disregard or elation, I have to live this truth today.  I say here and now, I am not going to be a party to this Presidency and I accept the consequences that may come as a result. It’s how I’m going to move forward. I am even more engaged and active as a citizen and it will enrich my work exponentially, for this I am certain. I embrace the cleansing, so I can make the most honest music and sing with my strongest open vowels, “I am what Democracy looks like today.” In and outside my musical world, I am the voice that will remind you that you can’t hate people you don’t know or understand; I am the body that will come between you and the preferences you have imposed on this sleeping culture legislating a woman’s right to govern her body and receive proper health care, I am the mother who will stand on the frontline protecting the Earth. Get your water hoses ready, I’m your greatest adversary, sound in my thinking, clear in my goodness and motivated on behalf of my daughter, my nieces, my friends, my friend’s kids, my neighbors, etc. YES, I AM HERE. WOMAN, MOTHER, FEMINIST, HUMANITARIAN, WRITER, COMPOSER, SINGER, and EDUCATOR.

The revelation of music is in the revolution, the evolution, the discourse and despair, the unraveling and assembling, the terror and joy, the discovery and risk. I’ve always been an artist that has led with my free will first, rarely an advise taker, always ignoring boundaries and limitations, just doing what comes most natural. It’s not that anyone is laying in adoration of my work, but as an artist, you must do what is pure, true and good. And in that exploration, I promise to do my best.

This is my New Year’s Resolution, like never before. I will reflect my heart in my music and in my daily actions. I will look deeper into myself to ask what I can do for others and how to be of service. I will be the walking, talking model of a grown up woman who will mentor young women trying to discover who they are and how to navigate this modern day suffragette saga. Let freedom sing, pure and strong, right before wrong, love before con.

Hold one another close this holiday season, spend time talking and helping the world be a more beautiful place to reside one act of kindness at a time.

A Summer Residency – A New Project Begins

I’m happy to share the news that I will be spending some time at the new Jazz Loft opening in Stony Brook, NY.  This special venue functions as a museum of collected jazz memorabilia and houses a lovely performance space on the second floor.  Curator and jazz trumpeter Tom Manuel has repurposed The Stone Jug, the local watering hole back in the 1940s, to function as a cultural exchange and education center for telling the story of jazz.

MVC-101F

I will perform there once a month, just in time to build my latest project, a tribute to the great Nancy Wilson.  This time and place provides the perfect opportunity for me to shape this story, living among such cherished photos and scores, using the history to build a new one.

My first two concerts, May 27 and June 10, will feature an incredible trio.  I am so blessed to have such extraordinary conspirators and I truly hope there won’t be an empty seat in the house to enjoy this collaboration.  I have been working with Andy Ezrin in the New York Voices setting for over 24 years.  He is one of my very favorite pianists, his solos often leave the room breathless, and his sensitivity as an accompanist is par excellence.  He supports, he inspires and he listens; a great musician to be in the moment with.  He and I have been building the Nancy Wilson project over the winter, getting it ready for the next layer of dressing.  Enter Matt Wilson and Ben Alison.  Matt is one of my very favorite jazz drummers.  He is so creative and a spontaneous playmate.  Calling on him to “do his thing” is the next step, but equally as fun, when in performance, you can expect him to toss in nuances that shift and change the paradigm.  That’s when the real fun begins.  And finally, Ben Alison and I have been looking for that gig to join our creative forces on and I think his original thinking sensibilities will keep the framework of this project equal parts traditional and inventive.  We’re not trying to preserve so much as spin off of the sparks that Nancy created with her voice, her song choices, her important partnerships with Cannonball Adderly and George Shearing (to name a few) and give us the impetus to take that music out for a new walk about.  So join us at one of these concerts to hear this music come together before it’s all buttoned up and ready for pressing.  These kinds of gigs are exciting to prepare for and for audience members to attend, you get to be in on the secret.

After hearing the concerts, I will be taking requests from the audience on what other Nancy Wilson song you think we should consider doing.  The only way, however, to know which songs we’ve done and which we haven’t is to attend the concert.  Aha

But before these concerts can happen, the Jazz Loft must officially open.  So join Tom Manuel, the Jazz Loft Big Band and myself for the grand opening on May 21, 2016.  There are events going on all day beginning with a parade at 2 PM, music and museum tours from 3-5 PM, and then the headline concerts at 7 and 9:30 PM.  Reservations are strongly recommended.  Sure hope you can come out and support this cultural center and endeavor.  It takes a village to make something like this last beyond the hoopla.

49747f_62eebcbf258c4d3ea301a1341e399c2c

 

It All Works

Dear Friends,

I don’t know what happened.  One minute I was posting little love letters to you and the next minute I drop you like a hot potato.  It’s been 13 months since my last confession!

No worries, I’m still alive.  In fact, I’m writing and brainstorming the next recording.  Circle in a Square was a marvelous ride and still is.  My live program has evolved to presenting this set of music plus old favorites from my prior two recordings, Avalon and Hardly Blinking.  It all works beautifully together, even adding my mini rock opera, I Saw Love Today, found a right disruptive and refreshing spot in the set.  It starts out as a lovely bossa nova and quickly morphs into a rollicking gospel revival.  It’s just my way, I can’t leave well enough alone, I meddle and tinker.  That’s what artists do.  And then to top things off, I’ve been truly enjoying sprinkling in a handful of my favorite standards.  It works, it all works.  Maybe not for the conventionalist or purist, but it works for the music lover, the explorer.  Lauren, the explorer.  Picture my backpack on my back, it’s heavy.

2015 brought lots of new opportunities to play, teach and grow.  I took on an adjunct faculty position at LIU Post to work with their jazz vocal students.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know these future vocalists and educators.  And since moving back to NYC, I’ve joined the New School, working with their creative roster of students moving forward the jazz morph-machine.  I love being around these young people, they are asking the questions that all of us grown ups need to practice more often.  They wonder who they are and what kind of unique stamp they can make in the music world.  They don’t ask how to stay the same, but how to take what they’ve learned about the legacies that have come before and what to do with all this knowledge in today’s day and age.  That in and of itself is exciting stuff!!!  I like being around that energy.  Not only does it make me more honest about my curious process, but it helps me understand what it takes to be young and foolish all over again.  Remember those days (grown ups)?  Remember that willful exuberance to create and misbehave all at the same time.  That’s when music is at it’s ripest.  Oooh, the juice is just dripping from the peach.  Learning how to encourage risk taking with my students is a joy.  For those that it doesn’t come easily, I give creative exercises.  For those that need reeling in and structural concepts, I show the beauty of the edit button.  It’s all about culling and crafting.  But first, the bounty must sprawl across the table.  So that’s what I’m proposing for winter semester 2016, sprawl and craft, a new micro brew from me to you.

And since I’m talking about practicing what I preach, I too am riffing and searching.  The original songs are taking shape.  The journey will be different than the CDs that have come before.  I’m returning to my roots of singing the standards.  The ones that I have waited for to speak to me and let me know when it’s time for yet another vocalist to sing those words and melodies.  You see, when I was 21 and headed off to Berklee, I purposely focused on original compositions, because I was so in love with the singers of the past that had made the standards shine, I wanted to wait for my own authentic ideas and concepts to merge at the right time for me to present them.  Of course, I sing standards with New York Voices and over the years in my solo shows, but it’s a big responsibility to present them and I don’t take it lightly.  So I’m digging in and it feels like the right time.

I will keep you abreast of the progress of this project.  I promise to stay in touch more often.  No one line postcards from Cancun will do 13 months from now.

In your life’s journeys, I wish you boat loads of curiosity and the creative will to act upon them.  You don’t know where your ideas will take you if you keep them to yourself.  It All Works.

With Gratitude,

Lauren

My Painted Lady Butterfly - work in progress

Only the Muse Knows………..

Dear Friends,

If you’re reading this, you are a member of a very exclusive and small musical circle. Maybe so small you don’t even realize what you’ve stumbled upon, or better yet, you do know and you are cozying up to hear a little news and drink a toast to a year dashing to a close. Either way, welcome.

This time last year, I was proofing the artwork, ordering the CDs and hoping it all would arrive from the Czech Republic in time to fill some stockings. Alas, the 2,000 CDs came in bits and starts, some lost and wandering around with other holiday gifts adrift in the mail madness, with only one single case arriving Dec 20th in time for me to rush out 400 advance copies to the press and radio. That seems like a lifetime ago. All anticipation has washed clean now, the message has been delivered, ‘cept for a moment of reflection.

Circle-in-a-square-coverMaking this record, Circle in a Square, was meant to be the summation of one era and the beginning of a new one. And I believe it did just that. It was the most creatively satisfying and liberating experience I’ve had in my entire career so far. Partnering with Elliot Scheiner was the first brilliant move. Next was choosing the musicians who would best interpret the songs – Andy Ezrin, Ben Wittman, David Finck and Will Lee. And finally, being fortunate to have so many wonderful special guests lend their voice to the work, the lily was gilded. I love and admire these musicians and friends and I am so thankful they took this ride with me. I’m proud of the music we put forth, the original songs that made it to the final 12, and the ideas that sprung from funny and smart people collaborating and capturing a moment in time.

I am also most grateful to my Kickstarter family who signed on to fund this project and put their faith in me. I love the way it felt to be accountable to 201 people. I love making music and the creative process, the gift is having the opportunity to put it to practise. So I really do know how fortunate I am. Thank you Kickstarter folk. You changed my life.

Photo by Yasumasa Okada

Photo by Yasumasa Okada

And as always is the case, touring the music throughout the year, the music grew. My confidence as a performer and band leader grew. And I see my path now, more clearly than ever. The biggest question is, what will the next project sound like? There will never be another “Circle in a Square.” But there will be other songs to sing……… Only the muse knows, and she’s not talking as yet!

Thank you to everyone who bought the CD, the Book of Lead Sheets and shared your thoughts with me. It really comes down to communicating with one’s audience and trying to offer something thought provoking, something new, something compelling. Thank you for listening, thank you for your encouraging comments, and for spreading the word.

And so it goes, another recording finds its way into the ethos and another artist pulls back from the adventure and asks, “what’s next?”

Wishing you a most Joyous of Holiday Seasons and your own “what’s next?” be full of adventure and laughter,
Lauren

To Dream or not to Dream, that is the question.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes you just have to inhale on a possibility that might never come true.

For Your Consideration, I mean perhaps, Affirmation

For Your Consideration, I mean perhaps, Affirmation

I suppose the music industry has made a fool of many of us, but what keeps most of us coming back is the fact that the creative process is so beguiling and fulfilling. Well, Grammy Season is here, I’ve prepared myself for the one of two outcomes available, you’re in or you’re out!!! Out is familiar to many of the hardworking and gifted artists out there. No marketing campaign, ravely reviewed project can get you into the final five with any assurance. Nope. I’m sure there’s very little one can do to change what is already decided by some algorithm of the listing of artists, name recognition, merit and dark horse factors divided by the square root of improbable. Its just the way it is. And from the looks of things, there are many viable choices in the category that applies directly to me, Best Jazz Vocal, so I know, yes I know. Yet, its fun to muse, its healthy to dream, and human to want your work affirmed. Hmm, affirmation, yes! So to dream or not to dream? What the hell!

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, it’s a Book!

Dear Friends,

I’m happy to announce that the Book of Lead Sheets is finally avaialbe for purchase. As we all know, art takes time, and even more so, paint takes even longer to hit the canvas and cure. My goal setting out on this project was to make a Look Book which housed the lead sheets from Circle in a Square and featured artwork that I commissioned to depict the spirit of the songs. While not every song got it’s own customized piece, I made up for it by gathering already completed work and family heirlooms to round out the concept.

My mother, who has 3 pieces in the book, gave me my view of the visual arts world. I didn’t have a knack for painting, but the creative process, no matter what the medium, was deeply instilled in me from early on. As a result, there is never a day where I’m not thinking about creating something.

The book features work from my mom, Linda Kinhan, my brother, David Kinhan, my cousin, Paul Slifer, and close family friend’s Amy Estrin, Don Frank and Char Fitzpatrick. Sharing them with you helps me celebrate them and give thanks from whence I come.

In the Shop section of my website, there is an “About the Artists” pdf that you can download to learn more about the people I collaborated with on the music and the featured visual artists.

You can order the Look Book at Createspace – a print on demand publisher that handles your order from beginning to end. You may also order from Amazon.com both domestically and internationally. If you would like a personalized copy autographed and shipped from me, I do have a few copies on hand for those special orders. And I also offer the option of downloading the lead sheets individually, if you don’t want the whole book. All of this can be found at the Shop.

Feel free to contact me at info@laurenkinhan.com with any questions.

I hope you order it, play the songs, and sing them at your gigs! That is the ultimate compliment.

Coming soon are vocal arrangements.

Many Thanks, Lauren

NPR Shoutout!

I had the pleasure of talking with NPR’s charming David Brancaccio of Mareketplace last January, upon the heels of releasing Circle in a Square. We talked about my Kickstarter journey and how modern day musicians are keeping their creative lives bubbling along through this crowd sourcing model. There’s no question it was a stimulating process. It required me to do more soul searching and pre production than I have done in the past, and because of that, I feel I was able to more swiftly conceive, produce and release this project. By anyone’s high standards of expectation, this was recorded, mixed and released in the space of 11 months. All while maintaining a full touring schedule with New York Voices and keeping up with my family life!

The NPR spot spiked a new rush of CD sales and fans. It’s so nice to know that national radio has such an influential voice and can help small business owners such as myself to wider reaches and markets.

Thank You David and Thank you NPR.

Circle in a Square hits the Bullseye!

Dear Visitors,

I’m happy to report that Circle in a Square has recieved glowing reviews.  As I braced myself for absolutely anything, I was thrilled that the way in which I had hoped the CD would be heard is, in fact, the way it was received.  I don’t try to be difficult in picking a team to play for or to, but I have always served my creative process first before thinking about marketing and promotion.  It’s not that I want to live on an island, it’s just that I believe authenticity and working from your gut is much more interesting and garners more lively results.  Circle in a Square is really no different than my other two solo outings, Avalon and Hardly Blinking, in that the same process applied, and when you listen to those projects, they too have their own “in the moment” voice.   Well, Avalon took a much longer time to make, but it doesn’t mean I’d taken my eye off the road.

In any event, I’m proud that Circle is being recognized for it’s bold statement on where Jazz compostion could go if the doors were opened a bit wider.  And I’m proud that it’s finally clear that just because I’m not singing the American Songbook, I’m not a Jazz artist.  Let that whisper be stamped out at it’s first chirp.  I think of myself as a jazz vocalist for sure, but like most worldly folk, I like many different kinds of music, so those influences have steeped into my artistry, allowing me to play with a fuller spectrum of colors and nuances.  That’s my prerogative.  That’s my pleasure.  That’s why I keep writing, so that I can keep searching and trying new sounds on for size.

I’m going to let the reviews below speak for themselves.  It’s nice to have your work affirmed.  It’s easy for it to disappear or miss the target, so I’m happy to know it is bringing people pleasure, that they are discovering new bits with every listen, and that one song at a time, I can connect with the world outside my own musical head.

Thank you for stopping by, Lauren

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Lauren Kinhan’s Circle in a Square is a Tour de Force.    – Jazz Journal

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

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

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

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

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 an impressive  album, which captures this singer and composer  in  the prime of her musical career.    Be Bop Spoken Here (Review by Debra Milne)

“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

“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 

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 formidableIt’s more than a keeper; it’s a killer in what it does to/for you!     –Greggo Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review

My Joyful Humble Pie

Dear Friends,

I’m so happy to report that the initial Circle in a Square tour is firmly under my belt.  I’m grateful for all my road experience, because I needed it to help me successfully navigate the rollercoaster that ensued.  It was challenging work traveling in this crazy winter weather, and working with new people at almost every gig, but the performances were their own animal, I loved being in the moment and responding to each ocassion, and I was just so darn happy despite everything!!!  This business can make a fool out of you, but not if you see the path and know that doing the good work is the purest motivator.

Andy Ezrin, Will Lee, Donny McCaslin, and Ben Wittman

NY’s Birdland CD release concert on January 7th was certainly a foreshadowing of things to come.  The band was stellar and the music came to life after months of mixing the static performances.  I was so happy to feel the notes flowing through my veins again and finding fresh footing.  Its funny how you become so acquainted with one performance, hearing it over and over again, and then being faced to let it go in an instant once the band laces into the intro.  I’m back to feeling the music again with a new desire to go exploring.  Working with the core trio from the CD was wonderful and the perfect way to touch off the tour.  Andy Ezrin, Ben Wittman, David Finck/Will Lee and Donny McCaslin brought their fierce talent to the night and we beat that drum again together.  And the weather beat the crap out of even the most “gung ho” of New Yorkers.  It was 10 degrees outside and as bitter a cold as I can remember.  But we had a warm house and good time, despite the bone chilling night.

Florida was a little gift and a great way to meet up with my road partner, Martin Bejerano (pianist), and break in the formula for all the upcoming gigs.  I hired Martin to MD with me as we embarked on hitting city after city with brand new players to rehearse at each stop  (except for the Ohio Experiment Gang, but more on that later) and give the music the ultimate road test.  It’s one thing to know the music works on the founding rhythm section, it’s quite another when every day’s a new day and new band.  So the thrilling knowledge I walked away with is, the music works.  It breathes and adapts, it is in a good structured place while also allowing each band to find it’s own distinct voice.  All I had to do was surrender to that notion and flow.  It was truly liberating and confidence building.

Mark Small, Paul Shewchuck, Martin Bejerano, Mike Piolet

So back to Florida…I did a Master Class at University of Miami, and I must say, they are under the very able direction of Kate Reid Prather, who took over the program this past year.  She’s really got them doing some hearty stuff.  Kudos to all!!  After that, I rehearsed with my quartet, made up of Martin, Paul Shewchuck, Mike Piolet and Mark Small.  They all came prepared and ready to go, so we turned one chart over after the other, finessing fine points and got to know one another and our sound.  The concert at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach was wonderful.  We had a welcoming crowd, some familiar faces and a birthday girl in the audience.  The music was recieved very well and we sold a bunch of product.  Delray Beach is a cool little town in case you were wondering, I’ll definitely return.

This is when the weather began to show it’s prickly hide.  I was supposed to return to NYC, repack and leave for Ohio the next day, but one of the many snow storms that blew through this winter came in with a fury and I only made it as far as Philly.  To make a very long 24 hours short, I never left Philly that day, but instead  found a room at a not so nearby hotel, returned the next morning to finally get out, but not claim my suitcase on the other end.  So off I went to fill out a claim for my bag, pick up my sweet pianist Shea Martin, and drive us to Bowling Green, Ohio with just the clothes on my back for our rehearsal that afternoon.  We had a nice session in one of a few basements on the tour, this time with my dear friends and faculty at Bowling Green State University, Chris Buzzelli (guitar), Jeff Halsey (bass),and Roger Schupp (drums).  We plowed through the repertoire and I had to rethink a predominantly horn based book into a guitar book.  I did two workshops at BGSU with their two jazz ensembles – they are doing terrfic work – and then a concert that night.   The group joined me on “Circle in a Square” and touched off a theme that continuted throughout this tour.

On this Ohio trip, we were fortunate to have three concerts in a row with the same band, so that was a gift.  My bag finally arrived sometime in the middle of the first night and then we went on to Kent State University to meet up with my good friend and director of the vocal program, Chris Venesile.  I did another Master Class, worked one on one with some wonderful vocalists and then worked with the Vocal Jazz Group.  The rest of the trio made it safely to Kent and we set up at a little club in town called the Secret Cellar.  I guess it was a Speak Easy back in the day.  We had a terrific crowd for this crazy chilly night and their choir sat in on “Circle in a Square.”  The next day’s travel to Maumee was harrowing.  One minute it was a blizzard then it was blue skies, then back again.  But we took it slow and got there in good time.

Chris Buzzelli, Roger Schupp, Jeff Halsey, Shea Martin

We played a little club called Dégagé and again had a nice crowd.  Lots of good friends, in fact, were in attendance and a few new connections were made.  We slept for a couple hours and then had to make the trek back to Cleveland, luckily again, the roads weren’t so trecherous that we couldn’t get there in good shape.  But I will say, the debris on the side of the road, be it an all terrain car stuck in the meridian or semis on their sides, it definitely said, go slow and beware at all times.

I’m proud of my musician pals at Bowling Green and  pianist, Shea, I worked with from Oberlin College, and thank them all very much for their game attitude during this not so sexy tour schedule.

Tacos, need I say more?

I had a couple days home to regroup and ready myself for the West coast leg.  Martin and I arrived in LA in good speed and went directly to the first taqueria we could find.  Sometimes you have to have your priorities straight.

My dear college friend, composer, producer, and rock star from Berklee, Eve Nelson, housed us in her quaint Valley Village home and we spent three nice warm days in the land of LaLa.  We rehearsed the band the day of the gig at Vitello’s and they were killer, Edwin Livingston (bass), Jake Reed (drums) and Bob Sheppard (sax).  They were so prepared and I just knew we were going to have a fantastic night……and we did.  Bob is just an incredible player and really gave us all something to chew one.  We got into some good dialogues and just in general delivered a show that felt profoundly formed for a bunch of folks that had just met.    That so many dear sweet friends attended on the lone rainy day in LA, and we know how much they need the rain, I was grateful.  Many of my fellow women music makers came out in force;  Luciana Souza, Tierney Sutton, Denise Donatelli, Michele Weir, Eve Nelson, Michelle Lewis, Christine Guter, Debbie DeForrest and Cheryl Barnes to note.   But also in attendance was monster vocal arranger Roger Treese, Chris Horvath and conductor Chris Guardino.  Though the house was only half full (I called the tour my Joyful Humble Pie tour), the energy in the room was palpable and the music responded.

Martin Bejerano and Christine Guter

I spent a couple hours with the wildly talented crew at Cal State Long Beach the next day.  These students continue to blow me away.  Again, under the incredible direction of Christine Guter, these students have a command of the genre and eat up the harmony.  I’m proud of what she’s got going on there and think the kind of singer/musicians she is unleashing on the world are something to marvel.

Morning always comes too soon, but Martin and I got up and out for our flight to Portland, my hometown!!  My brother Dave picked us up and we immediately hit the famous food carts in downtown Portland.  If you haven’t done this yet, do.  I had a braised pork shoulder sandwich on homemade bread with pickled fennel and tons of garlic.  Yah, I was full through dinner, but oh, you naughty sandwich.  Martin had some slamming bratwurst on crusty bread and Dave had some rogue sushi with kimchi.  Yum.  We drove over the pass to the coastline of Cannon Beach, a sleepy little mecca that features a main street, a monolith rock and a community of my favorite people.  My sister Christen’s Cannon Beach Yoga Arts is an amazing space which epitomizes the culture of this town with fine art hanging on the walls and weekly programs to sate any full time or casual yoga student’s appetite.  And if you want to know

Martin and Haystack Rock

where to mail order your coffee from, consider the hand roasted Sleepy Monk coffee shop’s wide selection of gorgeous, aromatic beans, you won’t be sorry.  Or visit my brother’s bar that he manages, The Hardware Store, where you can pick up literally what you need to repair a belfry while grabbing a mean pulled pork sandwich and herbacious micro brew.  They don’t play around.  I love it there.  And I especially enjoy returning to the Coaster Theater Playhouse to perform in front of whatever set they have up for this season’s play.  We usually pack the joint, but somehow I didn’t realize that we were competing with the Super Bowl.  That didn’t topple our apple cart though, cuz I got to work with some of my favorite musicians:  Todd Strait (drums), Dave Captein (bass) and Rob Davis (sax)!  Again, they could not have come any more prepared, so we finished the rehearsal with plenty of time to retire to the Hardware Store, have some dinner and watch the game.

My sweet girlfriend from high school, Stephanie, flew in for the concert and brought her daughter Peyton who proceeded to join me on staget that night to sing what my daughter usually does when she’s with me, Here is My Avalon.  She was so adorable and definitely I can see she has the bug!!  Good Luck Stephanie.  I got your back.

Peyton Barada singing Here is My Avalon

So pushing into Portland the next day, we made a pit stop at my first college, Portland State University, to do a Master Class with Jeff Baker’s group.  Martin and I did a little singing and talking.  Darrell Grant (pianist and on faculty at PSU) joined the session and had great things to say, too.  Then I got a chance to hear the ensemble.  They are doing beautfiul work, especially since the program is only on it’s second year, and I can see the fire and desire in their eyes.

So why would Portland’s Jimmy Mak’s be any different than the houses in Delray, LA or Kent, I should have thought my family could have their pick of any table and still have room to spare, but apparently, we were sold out.  Imagine that?  And what a wonderful night it was.  So many old high school friends and family pals, my PSU choir director Darcy Schmidt and her whole HS choir came out.  And what was also nice to see was plenty of new faces.  Hmm, I wonder yet if the window is opening a crack.  Don’t know, don’t care.  We enjoyed the night, deep music was played and I just fell in love with my band.  I can’t wait to return for more.

Martin Bejerano, Dave Captein, Todd Strait, Rob Davis

Leaving the next day wasn’t too bad, only a 4 AM lobby call, but we rolled out and onto Denver.  With a pile of fresh snow on the ground, I rented another all terrain vehicle and we drove directly to another basement rehearsal with Paul Romaine (drums), Mark Simon (bass), and Bob Rehbholz (sax).  If it weren’t for the fact that we had dinner reservations with friends at a nice restaurant in Denver, Martin and I would have happily retired to our rooms  with club sandwiches,

Quail, Pears and Risotto. Don’t Judge

 

but Rioja was calling our name.  Good friend Paul Falk and Aubrie Hamrick made us feel welcome and we at too much.  What else is new?  I still was in bed by 10:30 though, and the next day was the first day to sleep in for weeks.  Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

It should be understood and remarked that Martin Bejerano wins most valuable player and dear road pal during all of this.  He was gracious at every turn and played so beautifully throughout.  I can’t sing his praises enough.

 

I have played the Soiled Dove Underground before and it’s a big room with a nice stage and piano.  The only problem is it’s a destination club, not in the heart of downtown, and it was so damn cold that even I would not have gone out, if it weren’t for the fact that I was performing.  So we had that to deal with.   Nonetheless, the band played their butts off and we featured again, another group to sit in and sing the backgrounds on “Circle in a Square,” this time a high school from Rocky Mountain.  My good friends from UNC, arrangers Kerry Marsh and Julia Dollison brought some peeps and we closed the run with our hearts on the table and a mindfulness that the road traveled is soundly etched with our music and tenascious spirit.  But also aware that the trekking needs to continue to get to the next mile marker.

Martin Bejerano, Mark Simon, Paul Romaine, Bob Rebholz and Rocky Mountain HS

Nothing comes easy, even when the notes seem to be flying free; the business is still the business.  That’s why I call it My Joyful Humble Pie tour, because I’ve never been more happy and humble at the same time.  Art and music has to resonate beyond your familial network.  Circle in a Square is the culmination of  what I know and love about music and it is the most fun I have had doing anything.  I’ve been developing this sound for a long time and I hope this time there is an answer to the knock and an invitation to come in out of the chill.

So I’m home now, booking the spring tour and working on new things that will make this an exciting adventure to continue to follow.  Like my Kickstarter gang that helped me launch this project, I’ll need another kick in the pants to get this project up and over the guard rail and into a new field of exposure.

Things you could do to be a part of this campaign is to buy the CD, tell your friends to buy the CD, request it on radio, share the links, and buy tickets to shows.  Its as pure and simple as that.

Stay tuned for upcoming concert announcements.

Thank you to my bands, the club owners for having me, the educators for bringing me in, my family and YOU!

A special thanks to my sister Christen who helped it all hold together.  You Rock!!

Sister Christen Allsop, the Goddess

Love, Lauren