By Constance Tucker
Kristin Callahan is a DC-based jazz vocalist making a bold statement on her new release Lost in a Dream. The album is a soulful, highly polished collaboration with co-producer, arranger, and bassist Eliot Seppa. Lost in a Dream is the follow-up to her previous albums A New Love and One Magic Day, both focused on the standard jazz repertoire. However, for her new project, Callahan envisioned a different aesthetic. “I wanted an earthier sound,” Callahan says, “with acoustic guitar, percussion, a move away from being quite so traditional. I wanted to do something that reflected me: my personality, my style, and my taste. Eliot understood. We discussed what I was thinking, and he was so open to it all.” The ensemble is guitarist Matvei Sigalov, playing nylon- and steel-string guitars; Tom Teasley on frame drum, caxixi, cowbell, conga, and cajón. Drummers Mark Prince, Lee Pearson, and Carroll Dashiell III take turns anchoring the band, and four tracks include trumpet ace Joe Herrera, also joined by tenor saxophonist Matt Rippetoe on “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise.”
“Caravan” has a hip bassline and exotic percussion. Callahan’s voice is sensual, and her relaxed manner makes the melody even more inviting and alluring. It was Seppa who turned her attention to Ray Barretto’s late’ 60s/early ’70s music, which loosely informed Seppa’s treatments of the Ellington staple “Caravan.” Her rhythmic treatment of the melody flows with the style of Barretto, and the ensemble supports her every phrase. Sigalov and Herrera perform excellent solos, and Pearson and Teasley create the percussion solo for a climax of rhythmic furry.
“The Shadow of Your Smile” has an arrangement inspired by Ron Carter’s version from The Bass and I album. His version captured Callahan’s imagination. In particular, the playing of Steve Kroon, Carter’s percussionist of choice, struck a nerve and reaffirmed Callahan’s desire to incorporate percussion into her work. Her phrasing of the melody is playful, and she pays close attention to her diction, articulation, and variations of her vibrato. She emotes the meaning of the lyrics perfectly and makes the melody her own, a hallmark of a true songstress. Seppa’s and Sigalov’s solos are beautifully performed and match the elegance of the melody and mood of the arrangement.
Each player adds to each selection’s nuances, but Callahan’s warming and seductive voice take this album beyond the arrangements. She has a je ne sais quoi come hither in her voice that is alluring and quite captivating upon each listen.