Vocalist Kathryn Farmer brings a very contemporary vision to her jazz singing, one equally informed from the popular and R&B idioms. Her debut, Moondance
, offers a spectrum of music treated to her uniquely informed interpretations. Farmer fearlessly re-harmonizes songs for her own visionary purposes, rendering compelling, if not provocative, performances.
Strict constructionists who less-than approve of tampering with Van Morrison
's masterpiece...beware. Farmer does a considerable reconstruction, lending a densely abstract momentum to the song's natural swing. Her voice is mercury alto: fluid, pliant and obedient to the superb vocalist she is. Guitarist Melvin Sparks-Hassan adds Eric Gale
-like contemporary accents to the modulated horn charts, updating Morrison's song considerably. It is difficult to imagine transforming one of the hippest songs into something hipper, but Farmer does so.
Farmer performs a similar alchemy with Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," turning the roots-rock ballad into the smooth sweetness of contemporary jazz, eased on by Amanda Sedgwick's soulful alto saxophone introduction, touched ever so lightly by David Sanborn
. She further develops this in an altogether different direction on the brief "Never Will I Marry," which opens with a contrapuntal horn chorale, modulating through hectic changes in time and meter. Farmer sings her best spurred on by demanding charts like this.
Farmer's treatment of the standards, "Someone to Watch Over Me," "The Nearness of You" and "You Must Believe in Spring" bristle with a confidence tempered by the solid support of pianist John DiMartino
's sensitive playing. Farmer colors outside of the lines, but never so much as to insult even the most persnickety of jazz temperaments. The singer's superb voice is well trained and practiced for almost any repertoire as evidenced when she brings a blues swing to "Never Make Your Move Too Soon. Farmer is a voice on which to keep an eye and ear.
Personnel: Kathryn Farmer: vocals; John DiMartino: keyboards; Aaron James: bass;
David F. Gibson: drums; Brian Lynch: trumpet; Frank lacy: trombone;
Amanda Sedgwick: alto saxophone and flute; Steven Kroon: percussion;
Melvin Sparks-Hassan: guitar.