Kristina Koller is a 23-year-old vocalist who shows a knack for mixing things up on her debut album. Her song list contains venerable standards along with original material and songs by fairly recent rock acts like Blink-182 and Bon Iver, while her arrangements of the material encompasses everything from mainstream acoustic jazz to hip-hop and funk.
As a result you get versions of "I'll Remember April" and "Blame It On My Youth" that sport elegant acoustic piano underlined by easy-riding hip-hop beats while "I Miss You," a gloomy rant by the pop-punk band Blink-182, becomes a sophisticated jazz ballad. "Nice Work If You Can Get It" is powered by a hammering piano line more suited to a prog rock setting, and "You Go To My Head" is treated as sleek urban funk. No matter how the music changes from track to track, Koller's singing makes it all work. Her voice projects a melodic innocence and honesty that gives the set a sense of unity.
That sense of musical adventurism carries on through her original songs. "Utopia" is a carefree little swing tune with Koller accompanying herself on ukulele, "You're Here Now" is moody electric-piano-led funk, and "Our Lives" moves along on a simple, dramatic piano line that could have been written by Carole King. "Simplicity," credited jointly to Koller, pianist Fima Chupakhin and bassist Chris Talio, is a frisky bit of trio jamming that shows Koller can sing straight up-tempo jazz as convincingly as ballads or slinky soul.
The most involved and impressive arranging of the set comes on Bob Dorough's "Devil May Care." Tango rhythms, trumpet, ghostly voices, electric piano and murky beats all get mixed together to give the song a sensual groove that the late Mr. Dorough himself would probably have liked.
Kristina Koller has a fearless musical curiosity that leads her to blend all sorts of elements together into a variety of fresh sounds, and sing over them with complete assurance and ease. She has produced a strong first effort and it'll be fun to see where she goes from here.
Track Listing: You Go To My Head; Simplicity; I'll Remember April; You're Here Now; Skinny Love; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Blame It On My
Youth; Utopia; I'll Know; Devil May Care; I Miss You; Our Lives
Personnel: Kristina Koller: voice & ukulele; Fima Chupakhin: piano; Chris Talio: bass; Joe Spinelli: drums; Nick Brust: tenor sax(track 5); Josh
Evans: trumpet(track 10); Gabe Valle: violin(track 12); Michael King: piano(track 7); Eric Wheeler: bass(track 7); Darrian Douglas:
Rhythm Abstraction: Azure is the first volume of new compositions created as a follow up to 2018’s
release Rhythm Kaleidoscope. As with that release, Brock Avery improvised drum and percussion
solos. Frank Macchia then composed music for woodwinds and orchestra to Brock’s creations. Azure
is the first of three extended play albums of 6-7 compositions which will be released starting in
January and followed up in April and July. In Azure we have a created a group of pieces that continue
our quest for honoring the art of improvisation with a “stream-of-consciousness” sense of
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