At first brush, Kat Walker's Jazz Skat Gumbo appears to be just one more collection of jazz standards sung by one of the deluge of singers streaming into the already crowded jazz vocals market. Kat Walker indeed sings the standards, but she and her band hail from New Orleans, a fact that adds a decidedly Southern richness and complexity to the performances. This does not manifest as an incorporation of Dixieland elements, but rather an earthier, peatier quality to the songs, a quality first realized in Walker's slightly odd and raspy voice.
Walker's voice is unusual in that it is not exactly pretty, but it is unique, accurate, and precise, not unlike that of Louis Armstrong's. She adds a sensual edge to her singing that complements the two-fisted barrel-piano playing of Bart Ramsey, who propels all of the selections with his assertive style. Tenor saxophonist Dominick Grillo does not mire himself with prim balladic niceties, instead opting for an almost Texas Tenor approach; full bore and wide open. The sum of this is that these performances are gleefully more "Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer" than "Moonlight in Vermont."
Walker and company's approach is best heard on a bossa "Cry Me A River" and an extra humid "Fever." Ramsey wedges solos into the pieces sideways, giving them the overall structure of a cubist painting. Grillo demands attention when soloing, affairs all well conceived and performed. "Ain't Misbehavin" and "Over the Rainbow" are special treats, each presented with a swinging momentum. Walker's interpretations satisfy the desire for the standard fare performed in a non-standard manner. This is beautifully funky, viral, infectious music.
Track Listing: It Don't Mean a Thing; Cry Me a River; My Favorite Things; Fever; The Lady Is a Tramp; Am I Blue; When You're Smilin; Mack the Knife; Bobbie Mcgee; Loverman; I Got Rhythm Hernando's Hideaway; Ain't Misbehavin'; Over the Rainbow.
Personnel: Kat Walker: vocals; Bart Ramsey: piano; Dominick Grillo: saxophone; Spike Perkins: bass; Dennis O'Toole: drums.
Year Released: 2009
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Vocal
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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