Kristine W — Straight Up With a Twist

Sept. 9, 2010

Many of us can probably recall a time or two when we witnessed the appearance of a beautiful rainbow out of nowhere as we were just meandering along, not even giving thought to such an occurrence taking place. It may have even stopped you dead in your tracks as you gazed in awe.  In the business of critiquing contemporary jazz music (or any music, for that matter), one can certainly always hope for a great effort but can’t always expect to be set on fire by each and every release, of course.  Still, when it happens, it’s always one helluva pleasant experience. That experience is even further enhanced when provided by an artist who has never before recorded a jazz album.

Kristine W (actual last name Weitz), while having been exposed by her grandmother and mother to the great Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae and who often sang with her mom at pageants and juke joints, has spent most of her time flaunting her vocal skills in the arena of international dance music. So, you can imagine my joy when I was presented with the awesome treat of this international dance music star as she proceeded to totally blow me away with a display of absolutely breathtaking vocal fluidity, style, depth, range, and charm in her debut outing as a contemporary jazz artist on this, her debut jazz release, Straight Up With A Twist.  Scatting, teasing, purring, soaring, beckoning, and just donning the persona of the consummate jazz singer as if she’d been recording jazz albums forever.  Impressive would be quite an understatement.  She should feel quite comfortable in the very good company of some of the most charming and elegant voices in the biz.

Opening with a moving and seductive little bossa nova-like charmer called “Feel What You Want” (which she co-penned), she introduces herself in grand style. She then takes the bold step of reinventing the Led Zeppelin rock classic “Stairway to Heaven” into a scatty walk along her own jazzy stairway. As she utters as her last word on this piece: Yeah.  She then renders Donna Summer’s “On The Radio” jazz-perfect with her rich and soulful vocals and smart rhythm.  The seduction continues as she caresses a sweet “Save My Soul” and a mid-tempo, jazzed up/bluesy version of The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.”  That seduction, for me, is turned up yet another notch with the beautiful “Stronger,” another that she co-writes, which strikes so deeply within with its powerfully sweet melody and her touching vocals.

This album is full of many more “moments,” and it’s worth a true contemporary’s jazz lover’s time to give this a lot more than a cursory listen.  The only downside for me is that, while it is a two-CD set, unless you are into dance remixes, the second CD is not nearly as good as the first.  However, the first more than makes up for that.  My personal advice: Focus on the first, and fall in love once again. — Ronald Jackson