Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Vocalist Kate Reid shows some backbone and style on "The Heart Already Knows"

Kate Reid :The Heart Already Knows 

Despite a plethora of female jazz vocalists who release albums on any given week, rarely do I hear what I consider to be a voice that catches my ear, a voice clearly distinguishable from a sea of pedestrian singers out there desperately trying to gain recognition. To separate themselves from the pack, many singers hire top name musicians or employ lush orchestrations to give them credibility or to hide their vocal deficiencies. Along comes Kate Reid. I have never heard of her and admit to picking up her latest cd The Heart Already Knows with a bit of skepticism. Yes, she employed some of the most accomplished musicians to accompany her on this outing, but instead of hiding behind their virtuosity or employing a big band with over the top arrangements, she daringly chooses to lay herself bare, performing in a series of duets with just her voice and either a piano or guitar accompaniment. There is no hiding in this format. You either have the goods or you don’t. Kate Reid’s The Heart Already Knows shows she is the real deal. Clearly, she chose her collaborators wisely, bringing in some of the cream of the crop to accompany her. Pianists Fred Hersch and Taylor Eigsti or guitarists Paul Meyers, Romero Lubambo and Larry Koonse all contribute admirably to the effort, but it is Kate Reid who shines.

Reid hails from the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and received her bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University. She continued her education at the University of Miami where she received a masters and eventually a Doctor of Music Arts.  She moved to Los Angeles and continued as an educator, teaching music and voice at Cypress College also working with her own quartet around the LA area. She became a sought-after studio and session musician lending her voice to several notable films, network television soundtracks and commercials. She is presently a Director of Jazz Vocal Performance and Associate Professor of jazz voice at the Frost School of Music at her alma mater University of Miami. The woman clearly has the goods.

With such an esteemed career in the studio and academia it’s no wonder why many of us haven’t heard of her at the national level.  With her latest release, The Heart Already Knows, that should change.

Reid’s voice is smooth, sultry with a Julie London-like intimate quality, especially in this very pared down duet format. It’s as if she is singing to you personally. Her tone is warm, her delivery is polished, and she modulates between notes with effortless ease.  

The songs are not your usual fare, more contemporary than the run of the mill standards from the Great American Songbook, but they have their own charm and certainly suit her voice.  She sings Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For” like a wizened storyteller and with tender poignancy, accompanied by Paul Taylor’s nimble guitar. Taylor’s guitar accompaniment also shines on the Ellington Blues “Just a Lucky So and So” where Reid’s velvety voice floats on top of the melody like a dollop of ice cream on a root beer float.

The masterful guitarist Larry Koonse’s weaves his magic on “Confessin’” laying down the perfect backdrop for Reid to soulfully scat to the melody. Reid also uses Koonse’s filigreed guitar work on Joni Mitchell’s “Two Grey Rooms.” Koonse plays the chord changes on an acoustic guitar and overdubs some superb harmony lines on a western-tinged electric guitar. Reid’s voice is clear and impassioned by the Mitchell lyrics and at times, although her voice has a lower timber, she almost sounds like Joni.

The pianist Fred Hersch can be heard accompanying Reid on the haunting Billie Holiday song “No More” which she sings with her own sense of pathos. He also accompanies Reid on a song sung by Nina Simone “If I Should Lose You” which is done with an up tempo beat and again on Hersch’s own languid composition “Lazin’ Around.”

The Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo lends his exquisite mastery and gives Fred Hersch’s” Endless Stars” a samba beat. Reid sings the Norma Winestone lyrics with an easy lilt. Later the two return on the Ivan Lins’ composition “Minds of Their Own” with lyrics by producer Peter Eldridge.

Perhaps the most synergistic combination on the album is Reid with the pianist Taylor Eigsti on the Peter Eldridge song “Busy Being Blue.”  Reid’s voice rings with a sense of having lived the lyrics and Eigsti’s accompaniment is perceptive and lyrical. Reid’s delivery is so natural and unforced that it draws you into the melancholy of the song without ever becoming maudlin. Eigsti also accompanies Reid’s on the James Taylor classic “Secret of Life.”

As Producer Peter Eldridge says in the liner notes, the duet “…concept could either send chills down your spine or reveal a backbone you never knew you had.” I think its safe to say that with The Heart Already Knows, vocalist Kate Reid 's backbone is alive and well. 

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