Saturday, June 26, 2010

In review--Heading North (edit)

My Romance
Alma Records

Canadian jazz vocalist Kristy Cardinali tackles those old jazz standards on her debut recording My Romance. Jazz standards only sound simple on the surface. The torch songs require a palette of emotions, and the voice must sing well-modulated phrasings, which is daunting even to veteran jazz vocalists. Kristy (she uses the singular name as her moniker), nails the faster numbers such as Just One of Those Things and Bye Bye Blackbird (which she delivers a breathtaking rendition), and now that I have downloaded an upgrade for Media Player, I can hear lovely nuances in her vocals.  Though I still think I've heard better interpretations of You Don't Know Me.

In fact, the best version ever I have heard of You Don’t Know Me was recorded by a jazz chanteuse from my neck-of-the-woods, Trish Hatley, granted, a vocalist that is easily twice Kristy’s age. Hatley is among my favorite singers of jazz standards along with Greta Matassa (Seattle). These 2 vocalists milk every note in the standards they perform, every nuance comes through in passionately delivered vocals. Whereas, Kristy sings the standards in a somewhat detached manner.  She would excel at bluegrass swing and classic country western tunes. Even though I enjoy listening to her version of The Beatles’ Blackbird, I wish she put more soul and ache into the song. For whatever reason, Blackbird has always sounded like an African-American spiritual to me.  McCartney's version was somewhat cheerful, but then some African-American musicians got ahold of it and added bluesy elements to it.

My Romance provides gorgeous musical arrangements and Kristy stands up well to the virtuoso piano playing of Robi Botos and the other well-known musicians on the recording such as Kevin Breit.  She exudes confidence on the faster songs, she sings in a gutsy manner and her timing is spot-on. She’s still a young performer with some growth ahead. Even Matassa and Hatley had to start somewhere and jazz vocalists know that you keep hammering away at the music until you get it right.  Some vocalists don't hammer out the classics until well into their middle age years.  Kristy definitely has musical genes coming from a family of musicians and producers.

In a few years time, if Kristy keeps at it, she’ll set herself in the firmament of young jazz performers. Taking cues from another young jazz vocalist Heather Masse (The Wailin’ Jennys) couldn’t hurt either.

Kristy's debut recording sounds pleasant and velvety even if the vocal delivery feels dry at times. As mentioned earlier, jazz standards are a hard nut to crack. Still I’d like to keep a watchful eye on this Canadian jazz vocalist and observe her talent evolve in the upcoming years. Certainly the arrangements on this album shine and its lovely to hear the musicians on this album pull it together in a polished delivery.

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