A vibrant collection of re-worked jazz standards/Broadway favorites and three, original compositions, Karen Blixt’s Spin This is a most enjoyable debut from the San Francisco-based vocalist.
Blixt’s take on Count Basie’s "Swingin’ the Blues" gets things off to a rousing start; Joey DeFrancesco’s funky Hammond B-3 organ providing the deep grooves to compliment Blixt’s soothing voice.
Any number of songs from the Rogers and Hammerstein classic South Pacific are prime targets for singers to lend their personal translation, yet Blixt’s choice of the lesser-known "Carefully Taught" comes off as bold and exciting. Up-tempo and sassy, Blixt and her band, highlighted here by pianist Russell Ferrante, are in fine musical form.
Another Rogers and Hammerstein selection, this time quite well known, "My Favorite Things" also gets the Blixt treatment as she and arranger/producer Frank Martin serve up a quite progressive take on the popular song. Blixt’s fully ripened vocals add depth, perhaps even a dash of solemnity, to the playful lyrics.
The cover of Cole Porter’s "Night and Day" is rebuilt with modern jazz flourishes. It’s a stylish update for sure, complete with that always pleasant sounding, ‘midnight at the jazz club,’ atmospherics, which compliment a mature vocalist such as Blixt.
The heartfelt lament that is Jimmy VanHuesen and Johnny Mercer’s "I Thought About You" is provided first-class treatment from Blixt who truly finds the inherent soul of the much-admired standard. Accompanied by pianist Ferrante, Blixt wears her torch song hat marvelously. Simple and elegant, it shouldn’t take long for most to seek out a partner to slow dance with.
As for the original compositions, "Kitchen Blue" struts a long with four minutes (and 2 seconds) of harmless rhythms and feisty lyricism, while the last track, "Something So True" is a tender ballad that sounds of contemporary pop. Blixt strays just slightly, though quite nicely, from the rest of the album’s jazz-Great American Songbook blueprint.
The title track (written by Blixt and Martin), however, feels somewhat out of place. Jazzy, yes, but the overt, anti-Bush lyrics suffused with likable, shuffling beats and windswept melodies comes off as mostly ironic; here is the only peculiar track of the bunch.
Perhaps most intriguing on Spin This is the eclectic arrangement of two, jazz classics - Miles Davis’ "Four" and Thelonious Monk’s "It’s Over Now." On the latter Blixt treats the eccentric Monk with an equally eccentric arrangement. She be-bops her way through the tune accompanied by dynamic interplay amongst the band. Even with her potent voice punching through the mastery of the two bass clarinets, the band really shines on this track; her all-star supporting cast includes drummer Alex Acuna, Buddy Montgomery on vibes, Will Kennedy on drums, bassist Brian Bromberg, reed player Paul McCandles and the aforementioned DeFrancesco and Ferrante.
Whereas Davis’ "Four" is concerned, it might be the standout on Spin This - and there are many. Here Blixt puts her equally sweet and insistent vocals on full display. Played at full speed from start to finish the grooves are bottomless as Blixt guides her band in seemingly four directions at once.Out on HiFli Records, Blixt’s Spin This taps a nice assortment of well-known classics to surround her original compositions. With a confident voice and musicians in top form, Blixt serves up a charming debut where the daring succeeds almost entirely and the style sparkles throughout.