The title My Standards does not mean that this CD is a play list of classic entries in the Great American Songbook. Rather these are tunes that Karen Oberlin has listened to and adopted over the years, from Irving Berlin's to Elvis Costello's. Not only does the variety of music make this album bracing, but so does the way it is presented.
Oberlin's primary genre is cabaret with a smattering of musical comedy. Yet she takes fascinating turns with the music within that framework. Her pure and crystalline like a mountain lake voice comes in loud and clear on an A Capella rendering of "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep". Fortunately, her tone is warm, not cold like a mountain lake. Although her voice has a classical bent (both her parents were classical musicians), she plants a feeling of jazz into such tunes as "Barangrill". "Theme from the Valley of the Dolls" is a successful mixture of lamentations by Oberlin with the funky jazz guitar of Dan Carillo. She takes on one of the saddest songs ever, "Where Do You Start?". Unlike versions by Shirley Horn and Susannah McCorkle which focus on the emotional wrenching caused by the impending separation to force a divvying up of the possessions, the direction that Oberlin takes stays with the process to make sure that each gets what belongs to them and nothing more. Things change again with an injection of a folk song element in "Shipbuilding". The demeanor changes again on such classics as Billy Strayhorn's "Something to Live For" where a decidedly passionate, yearning comes to the fore. And finally, she can be cute and coy on "Happiness Is Hard to Sell". Her chameleon like ability to change her delivery to meet the needs of the song prevents her from ever getting into a rut.
A 16 year veteran of the singing scene, one can say with the release of this album, "it's about time". Recommended. Visit Karen at www.karenoberlin.com.
Personnel: Karen Oberlin - Vocals/; Arturo O'Farrill/Fred Hersch* - Piano; Jay Leonhart# - Bass; Victor Jones# - Drums; Dan Carillo# - Guitar; Peter Brainin$ - Sax; Roland Guerrero - Percussion@