Sound Advice Reviews
Here’s to the ladies who sing
Reviews by Rob Lester
A seven-and-a-half-minute treatment of “My Favorite Things” that sustains interest? You bet. Kaylé Brecher and her band explore all the potential in the melody of Richard Rodgers and the words of Oscar Hammerstein to reveal all the languid lushness the music can reveal when taken at a luxurious pace, stretching and reshaping it at their will. (There’s some borrowed structure from the jazz blueprint “Stolen Moments.”) All the while, involved lyric interpreter Brecher relishes the revisited phrases as if even the simplest of the things on the list are truly her cherished very favorite things. And she makes it all feel as warm as those referenced woolen mittens and the melted-into springtime. On Kayleidoscope we have a truly original, adventurous singer who writes the arrangements (alone or, in two cases, with a musician who’s in the band on the track) and has writer’s credit on seven of the tracks (music and lyrics on three, just words on the others—each with the melody by a different composer, two of whom are present and heard). And she produced the recording herself, and designed the packaging.
The elastic-voiced adventurist is quite compelling to listen to and follow, rarely making safe or predictable choices in her performance or song-crafting. In her highest head tones the sound is especially lovely, with delicacy, and I wish there were a whole lot more of that. But the deep dives into rich low tones have their own thrill, and the zig-zagging around rangy melodic treks are impressive. Mindsets indicated in the originals favor a persuasive carpe diem appreciation of life’s natural pleasures and other people. Lyrics can be poetic, abstract or direct, but the music often is non-conventional and may feel elusive or kind of “out there” to some. Vibrant and soothing, she could be a nominee for Jazz Earth Mother. From track to track, ever earnest Kaylé Brecher is joined by many varying accompanists on piano, percussion, bass and guitar. Then there’s the exception of an a capella rendition of Lerner & Loewe’s classic from Gigi, “I Remember It Well.” I don’t remember any singer trying this as a solo, but it works to delightful effect with a few tweaks to the words (mostly replacing what would be the other character’s alternate facts by inserting the word “Or” to question her own recollections of details).
Ms. Brecher, based in Pennsylvania, has been releasing albums for about 25 years and the eclectic Kayleidoscope includes a few pieces she recorded in the past, including “Sea of Dolphins,” with her lyric set to jazz giant Herbie Hancock’s melody. And she revisits “She,” the touching bio of a homeless woman. A more muted piece, it’s more accessible than some of her free-range excursions. But the artist can self-clip her wings for a fairly traditional take on an established Brazilian jazz piece like “The Gentle Rain” which she showers with affection, grooving well with tasty guitar partnering by Frank Butrey. Speaking of partnership, she shares vocals winningly with Miriam Suzzette Ortiz on “Something About You” which the two women co-wrote.
Experiencing this Kayleidoscope collection—whose moods go from her happy invitation to enjoy “The Fruits of the Spirit” to the desperation woven into Jimmy Webb’s “Shattered,” and the very, very new knockout vision of “My Favorite Things”—is much like looking into an actual kaleidoscope. That is, it makes one look at things in new and wondrous ways at each turn.