74

Katie Guthorn: Why Not Smile?

Edward Blanco By

Sign in to view read count
San Francisco-based actress, educator and singer Katie Guthorn is primarily known for her work in pop, R&B, Motown and even country music, having performed with groups such as the Soul Delights and the Randy Craig Trip. Though jazz has been part of her repertoire in the past, it has never truly been her main dish or passion. Jazz, however, is exactly what Why Not Smile? is all about, and the singer that does a superlative job voicing the music of Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, among others.

Making this jazz project all the more intimate, Guthorn fronts an intriguing quartet. The recording is a family affair: husband Terry Haggerty plays guitar, his brother, producer Tim Haggerty, is also on bass and keyboards, and Tim's son Aaron does the honors on drums. Tenor saxophonist Armen Boyd, the only non-relative in the group, rounds out the personnel.

Old, oft-recorded standards are the main course on this album of light jazz. Guthorn's tender vocal approach seems well-suited for the sensitive ballads that make up the majority of the selections. Straight-ahead swing is still part of the session though, as evidenced by the upbeat, lively, and unique Latin-styled rendition of the Tony Hatch classic, "Call Me," first composed for Petula Clark and popularized by Chris Montez and Frank Sinatra. The great Latin swing arrangement may have been inspired by Tim and Terry's Cuban heritage—father Frank was Irish, mom Gloria was a Cuban dancer.

The vocalist delivers a truly beautiful and lush performance on Strayhorn's immortal "Lush Life," which contains cushy keyboards and synthesizer backgrounds, and she simmers on the Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss." Accompanied well by stellar instrumentals, Guthorn hums through a terrific jazzy version of the Joni Mitchell song, "Black Crow," and takes off on "Where Or When." The singer performs tasteful balladic renditions of standards such as "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans," "You Don't Know Me," and "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)." Other notable pieces include a brisk "Rainbow Connection," the other hot Latin swing song, "Overjoyed," and the soft-colored title track—essentially a medley with Charlie Chaplin's iconic "Smile" as the foundation.

While this is clearly a vocal album, the producer, guitarist, and saxophonist do play important and pronounced roles. Offering a selection of gentle ballads, swinging rhythms and a slice of the Latin flair, Katie Guthron and crew deliver an inviting production of jazz music. There are plenty of reasons Why Not Smile? can serve as Guthorn's launching pad into the jazz genre: she interprets familiar standards like a seasoned veteran, she possesses a well-honed vocal approach, and she is surrounded by a supportive musical family. These are all the ingredients Guthorn needs to warrant the label of "jazz singer."

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Masters In Bordeaux CD/LP/Track Review Masters In Bordeaux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 19, 2017
Read On Parade In Parede CD/LP/Track Review On Parade In Parede
by John Sharpe
Published: August 19, 2017
Read Good Merlin CD/LP/Track Review Good Merlin
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 19, 2017
Read I Believe In You CD/LP/Track Review I Believe In You
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Morning Sun CD/LP/Track Review Morning Sun
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 18, 2017
Read The Conscience CD/LP/Track Review The Conscience
by John Sharpe
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Mobiles Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Mobiles Vol. 1
by James Nadal
Published: May 1, 2017
Read "Feather" CD/LP/Track Review Feather
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Road to Forever" CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana" CD/LP/Track Review Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 22, 2017
Read "Unfamiliar Surroundings" CD/LP/Track Review Unfamiliar Surroundings
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 10, 2017
Read "United" CD/LP/Track Review United
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 23, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.