Karen Johns & Company: Peach (2012)
The multi-talented Karen Johns is known not only as a singer, but also as a songwriter, actress and a playwright. The highly entertaining and truly sweet Peach, by Johns & Company, features songs from her swing-jazz musical play, Once There Was A Peach. Their third jazz album and eighth overall, the group delivers an exciting, infectious sound reminiscent of the golden age of the Swing Era. Sounding at times more like a big band than a light ensemble, the vocalist and her producer/guitarist/husband, James Johns, have designed stellar brass arrangements to serve as swinging backdrops to the nine original tunes and the four covers that harken back to the sounds of the orchestras of Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman.
This album provides convincing evidence that Johnswho possesses a beautiful voice and an extraordinary rangeis certainly a superior singer. The Andrews Sisters were a close harmony, Swing Era singing group whose style is reprised here on such songs as "Sugarboo" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo," as well as on the opening of "I Love You Forever." With Johns voicing complete, multi-part harmonies on each song, she leaves the impression of multiple vocalists masterfully matching the vibrant energy of LaVerne, Patty and Maxine. The swing is at full speed on "Peach," "Precious Find (Reprise)" and "(You Don't Know) How Glad I Am."
Husband James and son Gabriel lend their vocals to the feisty "Must-Be-Seen," while Johns voices a samba-styled rendition of the Mancini/Mercer/Migliacci tune, "Meglio Stasera (It Had Better Be Tonight)," a song penned for the first Pink Panther movie with Peter Sellers. Johns also delivers lush performances on several ballads including "I Speak Woman, You Speak Man," the gorgeous Italian love song "Sentimentale," and "Five O'clock Shadow (Reprise)." The band is simply superb; pianist Kevin Sanders, reed man Jim Hoke and trumpeter Ken Watters provide excellent support and deliver great solo moments throughout.
Delivering a blast from the past and a swinging good time, Peach is one fun album to hear. Karen Johns & Company draws from the golden age of Swing. They do a wonderful job setting the mood and preparing the dance floor with the music found here. There are many highlights on this disc, and singer Karen Johns is the main reason why.
Track Listing: Sugarboo; Meglio Stasera (It Had Better Be Tonight); Peach; I Speak Woman, You Speak Man; Chattanooga Choo Choo; Precious Find (Reprise); Sentimentale; I Love You Forever; Five O'clock Shadow (Reprise); (You Don't Know)How Glad I Am; Must-Be-Seen; Rocket City; Red Bird.
Personnel: Karen Johns: vocals; Kevin Sanders: piano, keyboard; James Johns: guitar, vocals (11); Jim Hoke: saxophones, flute, clarinet, harmonica; Chris Kozak: upright bass; Michael Glaser: drums, percussion; Ken Watters: trumpet; Gabriel Johns: vocals (11).
Record Label: Self Produced