November 2008

Kathleen Grace - Mirror
Monsoon Records 2808
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Kathleen Grace’s two previous discs, Sunrise (2005) and Songbird (2007), were very well received by jazz critics, who may find themselves thrown for a loop by her newest release. Mirror is undoubtedly jazz in its overall approach, but Grace, who produced all tracks but one, lets other influences seep in to create unusual juxtapositions. "Penny," the second cut on the disc, has a swinging verse that runs straight into a chorus evocative of Brecht and Weill. Perry Smith’s guitar solo on the song brings together the aggression of rock with the finesse and speed of jazz. The resulting tune is hard to categorize, and harder to forget.

"Elijah" opens with a gorgeous multi-tracked vocal reminiscent of k.d. lang’s later sophisticated pop, giving way to a beautifully paced jazz ballad. Smith again helps create the tone of the piece with volume swells on the accompanying guitar obbligato and a beautifully understated solo. "Am I Enough Yet" is a clever, sassy swinger with a witty stop-start beginning and a hint of Brasil '66. If my description makes Mirror sound eclectic, it is, but it never sounds haphazard, and the pieces fit together seamlessly. Grace wrote six of the seven tunes (the seventh is Randy Newman’s "Let Me Go"), and she’s equally strong as a lyricist and melodist.

All the players on Mirror are exceptional, and Grace is a clear-toned and deeply expressive singer. Her multi-tracked vocals are an integral part of the disc’s overall effect and never sound gimmicky. The recording is clean and sharply focused. Beautifully crafted, Mirror stakes out new territory and has me already anticipating Grace’s next disc.