Oakland singer-songwriter Kristina Smithwho prefers to go by her first namemakes a charming debut with the ambitious Offshore Echoes. Drawing on a multicultural background, she channels music from Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and world rhythms to American music for a varied and rich palette of styles. Kristina is part Angolan, German and Native American (Cherokee Indian), giving her an interesting perspective and a lifetime of multicultural experiences from which to blend different cultural elements and rhythms. The repertoire was a personal choice, selecting those songs that have been close to her heart for many years and have helped, in some way, to tell the story of her journey.
Producer/arranger Wayne Wallacea specialist in Afro-Cuban Latin jazzalso plays trombone and lends vocals as part of an A1 list of players, all local talent from the San Francisco Bay Area including pianists Frank Martin and Murray Low, bassists David Belove and David Pinto, reedist Mary Fettig, and drummer Paul Van Wageningen. With a superb cast of backing instrumentalists, Kristina proceeds to deliver dynamic new takes on compositions ranging from Walter Gross' "Tenderly" and Chick Corea's "Open Your Eyes You Can Fly," to pop tunes from Paul Simon and Kenny Vance.
Kristina begins the story of her multicultural heritage by giving a nod to her African side, using an infectious Afro-Cuban salsa rhythm on Sting's "Tea In The Sahara," aided by Wageningen's trap drum, Michaelle Goerlitz's congas and John Santos' bongos and guiro. The singer reinterprets Ray Noble's "Cherokee," clearly in reference to her American Indian background, with Wallace's Latin/salsa arrangement working quite well. Kristina's rich supple tone tenderizes Jon Lucien's balladic "Love Everlasting," and serves up the light "Take Me to Aruanda" with a taste of Brazilian flavor and brief solos from Wallace, Low and guitarist Rick Vandivier.
Employing background vocals from a host of singers, Kristina revisits the Brazilian vibe with the highly energized and percussive "Ilu Aye," and calls upon her vocal support once again on the Afro-Peruvian folk song, "Valentin." She shares her love of ballads with a beautiful rendition of "Tenderly," backed up by an eight-piece string section, creating a classical quality. Tapping into the Afro-Cuban rhythms one more time, Kristina is at her finest as she totally transforms the Kenny Vance original "The Performer."
The program ends with, perhaps, the weakest link in what is otherwise an impressive debuta laidback reggae version of the hippie era Paul Simon song, "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)." For a local singer whose time has finally come, Kristina lands on solid ground with Offshore Echoes completing a personal journey with a rich musical message that echoes, "I'm here."
Track Listing: Tea In The Sahara; Cherokee; Love Everlasting; Open Your Eyes; Take Me to Aruanda; Tenderly; Ilu Aye; The Performer; Valentin; The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy).
Personnel: Kristina: vocals; Wayne Wallace: trombone (2, 4, 5), vocals (10); David Belove: bass (2-8); Rich Girard: bass (1, 6, 10); David Pinto: bass (9); Paul Van Wageningen: trap drum (2-5, 7, 8); Deszon Claiborne: trap drums (6, 10); Michaelle Goerlitz: percussion (1, 2, 4, 7-9); John Santos: percussion (2-5, 7-9); Murray Low: piano (2-5, 7, 8); Frank Martin: piano (1, 6); Rick Vandivier: guitar (1, 3, 4-10); Danny Bittker: reeds (2, 4); Mary Fettig: reeds (2, 4), flute (3); Alex Murzyn: reeds (2, 4); Louis Fasman: trumpet (2, 4); John L. Worley: trumpet (2); Dave Martell: trumpet (2); Sandy Cressman: vocals (7, 9); Ed Johnson: vocals (7, 9); David Chaidez: vocals (7, 9); Sheryl Lyn Thomas: vocals (10); Garrett McClean: violin (3, 6); Stephanie Antoine: violin (3, 6)); Erin Benim: violin (3, 6); Jory Fankuche: violin (3, 6); Madeline Prager: viola (3, 6); Mimi Dye: viola (3, 6); Laura Boytz: cello (3, 6); Eric Gaenslen: cello (3, 6).
The first jazz record I received
as a visiting gift from my
Japanese uncle at his
international division of
Toshiba EMI Tokyo was a
sample copy of Miles Davis'
Bitches Brew. A game
changer redirecting my
browsing habits and collection.