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

 

 

 

358 Days Ago………….

Dear Friends,

When all this began 358 days ago, who knew we’d clear so many hurdles and get this out to market before another Valentine’s day passed.  The smartest thing I ever did was pick up the phone and call my good friend and master sonic wizard Elliot Scheiner.  He signed on without hearing a note of music, just a clink of a wine glass over some veal piccatta, and we were off.  With that, I found the courage and wherewithall to explore that crazy crowd funding concept.  It all seemed like and impossible dream, but after exploring the options, I settled on Kickstarter and took a fast class in marketing and video editing.  Oh, it makes you so humble when you venture off into unknown territories, but I knew it was where I had to go, so go I did.  Filming and editing was challenging, but once I got over how selfconscious I felt, it was fun and I cut together something that served as my proclamation to my crowd, my posse, my yet to be revealed gaggle of people that might jump into this swimming pool with me.  I gave myself a little over 30 days to raise what I hoped was an attainable number, $17,000.  It was less than 20,000 and enough, I thought, to get the basic recording tracks done (i.e. trio cuts for all 12 songs).  So I entered the Kickstarer vortex and so the story begins.

I survived the campaign, and raised $17,556 to be exact.  I immediately earmarked 5% of that to  Sandy Relief Funds; feeling my good turn deserved another good turn.  And with that, I booked Avatar, Andy Ezrin, Ben Wittman, David Finck and Will Lee.  Another smart thing.  Andy and Ben and I share a deep and rich musical background, having worked with New York Voices and on my past solo projects over the past 20 plus years.  I’m a hardcore fan.  And bringing in David  was a perfect fit with the music and solidfying a killer the trio.  And while I was dreaming big, I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally work with Will Lee.  Those two days could not have gone any better or been any more delightful.  Elliot thought the record was good enough to be done at that point, but I had other plans.

Over the spring we finished the vocals and got everything gathered enough to start thinking about sprinkling in some special visitors.  As I started to think about what instrument was crying to be heard on each track, artists starting popping into my head.  Phone calls went out and a wonderful collection of some of my very favorite musicians said yes to their cameos:  Randy Brecker, Romero Lubambo, Donny McCaslin, Joel Frahm, Gary Versace, Peter Eldridge and Aaron Heick all offered up tasty morsels to the project.  My dear friend from Berklee College of Music days, Marlon Saunders and my daughter Ella joined the chorus on Circle in a Square.  And Rob Mounsey did another lush string arrangement that was played by an all star quartet:  Sara Caswell, Jody Redhage, Joseph Brent and Lois Martin.  Matt Scheiner was on my left, Elliot on my right and we edited and mixed this in good speed.  Elliot did his usual magic of turning the knobs just the right way, and boom, everyone sounds like a million bucks and the cohesion within the songs and then the overall ride just seems to flow perfectly.  He won’t tell me his secret, but I must say, you are in for a treat.

Working with Sandrine Lee on the photo shoot garnered the surprise shot that I never would have suggested.  But she knows how to set the stage, so I just did what I was told.  I’m so happy I thought to have her shoot the recording session, too, because that all helped present this nod to old 50’s and 60’s covers that Burton Yount and I wanted to convey.  The fold out was Burton’s idea, wanting to create the feeling of reading the back of an album cover, holding it in your hand and turning it over.  All and all, I wanted the package to feel lush and real, the way I feel about the music, the people I work with and the way I feel about the art of making music itself.

I hope you enjoy letting this project reveal itself to you.  I loved writing and creating the music.  I love working with all my co writers.  And I am most grateful to the trio and musians who offered up their artistry and ideas to make this all come together as Circle in a Square.

 

Many Thanks, LaurenCircle in a Square cover art

The Deep and Defining Line

Dear Friends,

As these things go, it all comes down to the mad dash to the finish line.  Artwork is being finessed, press releases are being drafted and redrafted, gigs are getting booked, moved and rebooked.  Game on.  I haven’t left my kitchen table where my computer sits, always at the ready, with empty teapots, coffee pots and crumbs strewn about demarking a spot that’s well lived in.  Right now, I have a serious relationship with my computer, so back up, we’re busy.

But on the flip side, it’s coming together and all this hard work is paying off.   The release date is January 7, 2014 and it kicks off at Birdland in NYC!  I’ve never been more excited about a release than this one.  Probably because every part of me has been invested in every facet of the creation, production and launch.  Different from years past where your primary involvement was the creation of the music, today’s artist has to be the producer, composer, arranger, assistant to the producer, social marketing maven, booking agent, musical director, food services, and chief bottle washer.  That intermixed with my New York Voices duties and Mom duties, I fall into bed every night wondering where is this all leading?  How long do I think I can maintain this all people for all jobs pacing before something slips.  And then I wake up the next morning, make my list and start checking things off one by one.

Nope, no one will be able to say I was a slacker in life.  I have always worked hard, made stuff happen and laid it on the line.  This time, that line is deep and defining.  Deep because it matters, it’s always about the music and the expression.  And defining because Circle in a Square, unlike Hardly Blinking and Avalon, is the completion of one circle and the beginning of the next.  I worked it out.  I did the math and it all adds up to “this is it, I’m home.”

And part of that exercise was going outside my circle and reaching out to the greater listening audience.   Through the Kickstarter crowd funding format, I got the seed money for starting this adventure.  Who knew that 203 people would show up ready to send me to work.  I am forever indebted to those friends as in truth, it was a most needed push off the diving board.

And with every new hat I have had to put on, it has demystified the music industry.  We don’t really know how to manipulate this large unwieldy puppet anymore, so why don’t we reinvent the process and cut a new path.  Well, that suits me fine.  I was never much of a joiner anyway.  So I’m gonna make it up.  I’m gonna keep making it up until I get to the next place, wherever and whatever that may be.

So here is the cover artwork for Circle in a Square.  Sandrine Lee is a wonderful photograher and Burton Yount is now in the hot seat of creating the rest of the visual magic.  100 promo copies arrived at my door (well not exactly, I had to drive to the UPS facility to take it off the truck before they shipped it to the wrong address – so add to my list of  job descriptions delivery service) and out they went again to my darling press agent, Ann.  Now it’s her turn to stir the pot.  Next, advance copies to radio to start seeing what catches hold.

And as I close my eyes and hope and hope and hope that a song will speak for me, and a bridge will be built to ensure I do this again and again, I say thank you for listening.  I do hope the music resonates with you as it was intended and that it can bring some joy or solace to your everyday.  And now, I must make another pot of coffee, for the snow has finally come to Long Island and the long winter’s hibernation has begun.

Cheers,

Lauren

What rhymes with Terry Litmus?

Dear New York Voices Fans,

We’ve done it!  We’ve been threatening for years, and we’ve finally done it!  Holiday Cheer is coming right to your doorstep from the four of us.  With the help of the incomporable Elliot Scheiner and our fearless arranger Darmon, we’ve rounded up 13 traditional and secular favorites and took them on a sleigh ride.  Let it Snow promises to be a classic in your annual celebrations for many years to come.  There are lush orchestral treatments and big band romps, and of course, a few stellar a capella moments.  Visit newyorkvoices.com to order your copy or find it on Amazon and iTunes.  Release date, October 29, 2013.

Oh, and the answer to the riddle is Happy Holidays, silly.

 

Photo by Peter Blum

Musical Mahem on Another Level – NYV Live

Of the 25 years that New York Voices has been on the scene, I’m coming up on my 21st year on this E Ticket Ride on April 1st. Yup, April Fools Day. But this day all those years ago made no fool of me, but instead designed a seasoned road warrior and fed this musically curious mind to the brim. We have shared life’s ups and downs, our marriages, our babies, our hopes and our dreams. We have learned how to survive this fickle business and forge on with sometimes only one of us rowing. We have learned how to make this group work living in four separate States, rehearsing in hotel rooms and thriving off of deadlines. It’s not a perfect storm of productivity, but what makes this group special is that very thing. We have a tempo, for better or for worse, and we let whatever blossom is pushing to the surface, fight to break ground and get our collective attention. Once its in the ethos, it cues up and awaits its assortment of notes and rehearsal process. Not every song gets completed and not every wish gets granted, but we’ve done our best to please ourselves and hopefully please our listeners. And that’s that.

With New York Voices Live, we went back and collected some old favorites, some in rotation staples and a couple newbies. Then we threw them to the brilliant musical mind of Michael Abene. Now he’s a force to be reckoned with. And the super sweet thing about Michael is he was the producer of NYV’s debut recording back in 1989, so it’s truly a career coming full circle for the group. Combining his powerful arrangements with the WDR big band – of which he is the creative director – is already a match made in jazz heaven, add NYV, and you’ve got musical mayhem on another level. We are so thrilled to have this retrospective of our career – thus far – captured, and are even more happy that so much wonderful press has concurred:

The big band arrangements, raw energy and excitement of New York Voices Live propels this elite group to another level.

A sizzling vocal and instrumental experience.

Slithery, masterful, multilayered and dazzlingly cacophonous.

We are leaping up the Jazz Charts which is still fun after all these years (currently #9 as of 3/30/13). I know it doesn’t matter, but the mystery is entertaining (especially when it’s working in our favor) and it gives our proud parents something to brag about at the library.

I hope you get a chance to check it out. And while you’re at it, visit our new website, newyorkvoices.com.

Yours, Lauren

12 Tracks in 24 Hours!

Avatar Studios, February 15, 2013
Elliot Scheiner, Ben Wittman, Ella Marcus, Andy Ezrin, Will Lee, Lauren Kinhan
Not Pictured: David Finck

Have you heard the one about the rabbit and the hat? Well, that’s what we did on February 14 and 15, 2013. We tracked 12 songs in 24 hours. Poof, you are a record!

I can’t quite express the ease and joy in which these songs went to tape last week. It was the vibe I wanted to create, an atmosphere that was relaxed, filled with good friends and musicians and a console at the ready to capture the notes. First of all, Elliot Scheiner brings all his years of wisdom and puts everyone at ease knowing the music will be recorded perfectly and honestly critiqued. That we rehearsed once before the session relieved any pressure of not knowing the music and the goals going into it. I worked tirelessly tweaking the charts, adding the changes from the rehearsal, and making sure the music was ready for the marathon ahead. And it must also be said that Andy Ezrin helped in getting many of the newer arrangements up to speed and ready to go under the microscope. Andy, you’re my hero!!!

So on Valentine’s Day we embarked on recording 12 songs with only a schedule and a dream. One by one, we checked off the songs. We began with a lamenting ballad entitled “We’re not going anywhere Today” which turns out to be Elliot’s favorite of the bunch. It’s sparse and delicate. I’m not sure why I thought that it would be a good leaping point, but it really did focus our energy and set the tone. By lunch break we had tracked almost three songs, taking a break from the third because we were overthinking. After lunch we checked the third off and moved on to two more before dinner. I purposely put some of the heavier and more ambitious songs on the first day’s roster, so that the second would be less pressure filled and would allow us to linger in other ways. One tune that I am personally proud to have recorded is a song that was first titled “Turn the Bass Around”, but is now titled “Chasing the Sun.” It’s a wordless brazilian influenced piece. The original title references a repetive bass motif that gets slightly displaced as the song rolls along. I knew I couldn’t keep that title and finally came upon this new option while on the Jazz Cruise with New York Voices. A woman on the cruise was telling me how she and her husband were following the summer while their home was being remodeled. The idea hung in the air just long enough for me to realize that would suit very well the feeling of this joyful song. This song is inspired by one of my favorite orchestral-like songs written by Antonio Carlos Jobim entitled Stone Flower. I hope I can come close to that brilliance.

At 7:30 PM, Will Lee walked through the door, replacing Dave Finck for the evening’s line up of songs. Working with two incredible bassists is a thrill. It’s my first time working on my music with both of them. Dave is a master and there will be more on him later. But Will is just the consumate pro, rock star and hysterical human being all wrapped up in one. And he’s the perfect bassist for the title track, “Circle in a Square.” This song takes you on a ride, a tour de force, if you will. I brought the head of this tune to a wonderful saxohonist Ada Rovatti who really took it to an incredible place with her harmonic choices and groove. I told her to write a musical interlude that we could play together. But then I had to write a different melody and story over her changes and suddenly it became something else. The more I thought about it, it was kind of like one of those Beatles bridges that takes you out of the tune and transports you someplace else. Well, that’s all I had to say to Will, Ben and Andy for them to figure out where to take this section. Can you say classical trumpet solo? I’m very pleased with how this turned out. And that closed the first day’s recording. A technical glitch in the studio prevented us from getting the rest of Will’s tracks done, so we were luckily able to reschedule him for Friday in the afternoon. We got 7 songs done and had 5 to do the next day. Perfect.

The next morning we began with Peter Eldridge’s cameo appearance on our collaboration “The Deep Within.” There’s always an Eldridge/Kinhan collaboration on my projects and this one will not disappoint. It worked differently this time in that I wrote the poem and then we set it to music. It was a pleasure approaching the music this way and it came together fairly quickly. It’s very motivic and elegant. Dave Finck, this is where I’ll gush, used his bow for the whole piece and it’s just extraordinary. I conducted the song while trying to stay in my performance head in hopes of catching a final performance. The purity of the whole performance from everyone was really really special.

It was hard to leave that space, so we stayed in ballad mode and did “Another Hill to Climb.” This song is inspired by Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” and then wanders off and does it’s own thing. Including Andy, who really played his *@!! off.

Finally we finished the Ben, Andy, Dave trio with “Vanity’s Paramour.” What’s interesting about this song is it’s about 25 years old. It’s the bookend to where all this current repertoire sprouts. I’ve included it because I think it shows that I’m still the same after all these years. The music I was writing back then is still as spirited and weird as I write today. As my mother would say, “I’m the same damn dog.” And I am in so many ways. It was one of those ambitous writing assignments I have given myself over the years where I’m mutitasking goals while still trying to make a cohesive composition. In this song, the melody bounces from singing a bass line to an upper structure melody line. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. But if that wasn’t enough, I wanted to write a lyric that was sensual, dark and troubled. The guys did a great job transporting me back while also making it current.

After lunch, Will popped back in to record the remaining two tracks. One song is a collaboration with a dear old friend from my Berklee College of Music days, guitarist Jiro Yoshida. He wrote the music and titled it “Bear Walk”. That sent me down the path of writing a lyric that touched on Goldielocks and the Three Bears, but gone wrong! I had a lot of fun with it and I think it’s a fun addition to the line up. And finally, the last song that was written is also the last to be recorded, “Pocketful of Harlem.” I had the head of the tune and lyric written and gave it to Andy Ezrin to play with. I thought this was gonna be a swingy little number, but he took it to a really groovy place. I’m still trying to figure out how to sing it, but there’s always one of those on a recording that gets born right on the spot. Oh, and Ben Wittman is featured on this one in a big way.

After dinner I asked Elliot if I coudl sing two passes to each of the songs before we called it a day. I mean, I sitll had 3 hours left before our session was over and I wanted to get our money’s worth out of the studio time. And for the record, I had already been singing 12 hours the day before and 8 that day, so my voice and body was a tad bit weary. But I was in the zone, so I just wanted to keep going. We did passes to five more songs and at 9:30 PM, Elliot called it. He was right, I was turning into a pumpkin.

Today I listened to what we recorded and I’m still scratching my head in wonder at what we accomplished. Everyone played so beautifully and gave so much heart to every note. I am so thankful to Elliot, Andy, Ben, Dave and Will. A special shout out to Aki, Elliot’s assitant and Melissa, my assistant. Because of them, edits were made efficiently and meals were at the ready.

I can’t wait to begin the overdubs and sprinkling in our special guests!

Thank you one and all for your support in this musical adventure.

Yours Sincerely, Lauren

Kickstarter Fund Funds Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

On October 29, Hurricane Sandy hit 1000 miles of the Eastern Seaboard like no other Hurricane in recent decades. As a Long Island resident, we were evacuated for Hurricane Irene and saw our hamlet sustain serious damage from the ocean breaching Dune Roads, Bays and Canal communities. So when the news said this was going to a larger storm, we didn’t even doubt that it would and could have it’s way with us. The wrath of wind, water and storm surge are fickle and willfull factors, one could never know where your luck would lay on the roulette wheel and where the storm would exact it’s fury. For my community, we were lucky on so many levels. Even though the ocean did indeed pass through some of my neighbor’s living rooms and basements, we were soooooooo much more lucky than the Rockaways, Manhattan or the New Jersey coastline.

I had been readying my Kickstarter campaign before the Hurricane, but after the storm, everything looked and felt so different. My project hardly seemed important in light of such greater challenges. So I put it on hold and turned to things that needed to be done immediately. As November came on, the holidays were fast approaching. Geez, this just seems like an awful time to think about asking for Backers to support my next recording when we’re in the throws of communities recovering and our minds are turning to family time, holiday meals and that crazy holiday shopping. Should I wait til the New Year? I gave that serious thought, and then I just closed my eyes and counted. How can I connect my work with the world? How can I connect more profoundly with my listeners? Aha, I’ll earmark 5% of the budget to something I’m passionate about – Hurricane Sandy Relief – push the launch button and start moving forward.

During much of the campaign, I was consumed with marketing and promotion. I’ve never embarked on such a journey. Ever the prideful Leo, I haven’t always been so good at asking for help, but this ball started rolling down the hill and I had to get my running shoes on. There were ups and downs in the 35 day long fund drive, plenty of time to get excited, be filled with self doubt and everything in between. Slowly but surely though, those CD preorders started to add up and it was turning into a possibility. One Angel touched down on December 12th, promising a chunk of money that put the project over the halfway mark. This caused another big flurry of investors and momentum. On December 15th, another large donation was promised and on the 17th we reached our goal. Besides being equal parts thrilled and shocked, I felt humbled by 203 people’s generosity and faith in me. Suddenly I had a recording contract, a promise to these friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers to make the very best recording imaginable.

While the rehearsal and the recording sessions are booked, there was still some business to attend to, spending that 5%. I researched many things, but really wanted to find something personal to fund. I found two things that interested me. In my Backers honor we outfitted St. Frances de Sales School in Rockaway with their early learning music instruments they lost in the Hurricane’s wake. St. Frances has been an on going resource for drop off donated items and people to gather and get things they might need. They have done so much to help their community and continue to do so. And I also donated $500 to the organization Hamptons Hurricane Relief Fund that was founded by the dynamic duo, Romi Sloan and Kym Smith, owner and manager respectively of Gardens by Romi. They have been driving back and forth from Southampton to the Rockaways since November bringing building supplies, coats, furniture, volunteers, you name it. They made a difference in the post trauma and continue to do so months after the event. They are dedicated to the cause and I am thrilled to personally support and endorse their passionate efforts.

So there you have it, a great kiskstart to a new year. People helping people, passing it on and planting new seeds. I thank my Backers, each and every one of them, who are helping me make my next dream project. And I thank them for providing me an opportunity to give back in my moment of good fortune.

Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2013. I encourage you to dream big and put it out there. I’m proof that it can really happen.

Yours Sincerely, Lauren