Channeling her multi-cultured background that includes German, Angolan, and Native American Indian ancestries, singer-songwriter Kristina Smith delves into a litany of influences to bring out a rich palette of textures steep in Afro-Cuban rhythms, swing-inspired motifs, and flowery ballads on her debut album Offshore Echoes from Patois Records. She describes how the album fulfilled her innermost needs. "I call these choices of songs my ‘wish list songs’. I wanted to share the message within the songs. The songs affirm the ups and downs of life. As a jazz singer, I wanted to make the songs ‘my own’ with the help of Wayne's arrangements."
The eminent trombonist Wayne Wallace produced the album and displayed the instincts of a seasoned professional drawing out the many complementing flavors contained in Kristina’s soul. She cherished the experience of working with Wallace and claims, "I have been a follower of Wayne Wallace's work as a producer and arranger as well as a trombonist. I've enjoyed the variety of musical styles he is open to. When I met with him I found out that we share a similar vision and a mutual affinity for world rhythms. As a singer, he respected my choice of lyrical story-telling within songs. Therefore, when we combined our ideas, it made it an easy and pleasurable experience."
Kristina shares that she and Wallace collaborated on the arrangements as well as the choice regarding which musicians would be on the recording, all of whom came from the local San Francisco Bay Area. "The San Francisco/Bay Area has a host of wonderful musicians," she asserts. "Many I have worked with before. We chose the best people for the type of rhythms and feelings to best fit the concept of the CD."
She expresses that the direction of the songs was pinned down before everyone went into the recording studio. "We worked with demos in pre-production and we worked it out during rehearsals."
She reveals that the song selection for the album was a personal matter. "They are songs I have loved for many years." she confides. "The songwriters told universal stories that touched my heart. In my opinion, the songs have been a healing force that recognizes we are not alone in our joys and sorrows."
One track that has a special meaning for Kristina is Paul Simon’s song, "The 59th Street Bridge Song," which was tweaked with a catchy reggae spin on it. She explains, "Wayne arranged the song to have that reggae-island spin. It's part of my CD's concept to hear the drums and rhythms of Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Peru, Jamaica and the USA. I dedicated this CD to my brother who passed away on November 18, 2007. We were big Simon and Garfunkel fans. The song was selected to honor him and universal childhood memories of having fun."
She reflects about her role as a solo artist, "The greatest joy I'm getting from this experience is that other people, i.e. children, women and even men of various ages are singing along with me on the songs. Some know the words already. Others are scatting with me on ‘Cherokee’ and ‘The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)’. It's very gratifying. I'm working on the ‘Dream Show’ that will have folks up and dancing."
Being able to touch people’s hearts and emotions with her music was a bonus to becoming a solo artist, but it was being able to chose which music to perform that steered her in this direction. She tells, "I've always been a singer. I still sing in choirs and in groups. I love to sing. In the San Francisco/Bay Area there are night clubs, coffee houses, restaurants and art openings and of course our famous wine tasting events to sing and practice one's craft. Singing solo gave me the opportunity to chose what I wanted to sing."
Her sense of independence can be traced back to her childhood when she was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area and basking in an environment that encouraged individuality and creativity. She recalls about her youth, " I heard a variety of music growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. It influenced the styles of music I enjoy. I foster the desire to share rhythms and stories from various places with others."
As an adolescent, she was accepted to Mills College in Oakland, California on a dance scholarship and remarks about it. "When I was a teenager, I was in the Upward Bound Program at Mills. The dance department viewed a video tape of me dancing a Ruth Bedford inspired choreographic piece and offered me a scholarship. I jumped at the chance to attend the school. The experience of attending Mills broadened my horizons to the point that still effects me today in the choices I make."
It was during a summer vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico when Kristina began studying at the Maria Benitez Institute for Spanish Arts and performed with the Gitano Singers and Dancers. The Flamenco-tinged ambience of Santa Fe gave Kristina a chance to experience Latin rhythms and Spanish-influenced music, which have all made their way into her music and debut album Offshore Echoes.
She enthuses, "I hope people enjoy my selection of songs for the concept of this CD, Offshore Echoes."
She professes on her website, "Never be afraid to love, never be afraid to just be, cast away the chains of doubt, have the courage to be free, open your eyes you can fly." The message in her album encourages the listener to aim towards being positive about life. For life is a party to Kristina, which is opened to everyone.