San Francisco Bay Area-based vocalist Karen Blixt aims for variety and delivers a strong sophomore release with Mad Hope.
An innovative singer, Blixt plays with interesting rhythms and mixes Brazilian and world music into her free-spirited work. She and arranger/producer Frank Martin wrote seven of the 13 tracks. Blixt also penned lyrics to "Follow Your Heart" by John McLaughlin and "Take Ten" by Paul Desmond.
Blixt drew upon her own experiences and travels on "Frida" and "Antigua," an homage to the place where her children were born. Adding to the variety is a swinging take on Charlie Parker’s "Billie’s Bounce" that features Paul Hanson’s bassoon and Sheldon Brown’s bass clarinet. It starts out in a moody free form before Blixt steps in, scatting throughout the fast-paced number. Even without words, Blixt is able to show off the clear, rich tones of her voice.
The singer demonstrates her playful side on the original "Jazz Ants" that has a fine piano solo by Patrice Rushen, who is featured throughout the album. The two close the album with an intimate duo performance of "You Are There" by Johnny Mandel and David Frishberg.
Rushen is among the veteran musicians coming to Blixt’s side on the new CD. Others include Randy Brecker on trumpet, Abraham Laboriel on bass, Jose Neto on guitar, and Will Kennedy on drums.
"We really wanted to have a range of style on this album," Blixt said. "On the first album, we received such great feedback about its variety. We didn’t have a particular concept for this album other than to offer more of our own material in a wide array of feels with a lot of musicality - be it funk mixed with straight-ahead jazz, mixed with world, mixed with Brazilian, in a few different time signatures."
Variety is a word that can describe her second CD as well. It is also one the singer's strengths.