Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kathy Sanborn's Recollecting You on CD

When I was first exposed to trip hop about a decade ago, I thought wow, if you squint hard enough this sounds like any other pop/r&b/easy listening/jazz with female vocals. Just remove the spacier elements, the programming, the DJ and his two turntables and the core of this music is pretty traditional. (You can probably tell I was listening to something like Supreme Beings of Leisure and not Portishead, but hopefully you get my point.) The first time I listened to Kathy Sanborn's Recollecting You, I thought the exact opposite--if you squint hard enough you can almost imagine the beeps and the quirks amid a vast and synthetic landscape.

Recollecting You isn't quite that accidental trip-hop album, but the way certain sounds and moods are suggested through layers of keyboards and guitars is curious--it's as if Sanborn had been listening to LOTS of trip-hop before she circled back to her next studio release. This exotic layer was probably influenced by Keerthy Narayanan, the India-based musician who produced this album as well as playing keyboards and bass. Pianist Aman Almeida and drummer Abhinav Khanna are also from India, and this triumvirate is vital to the rich, gorgeous sound. (Trumpeter Wayne Ricci, violinist Rocio Marron and guitarists Vito Gregoli and Ciro Hurtado also make important contributions.)

I'm thinking about making this a week where I discuss a lot of female voice recordings, especially since I have quite a few jazz recordings on hand that fit the bill. I've had this conversation many times before, so you probably know I'm not one of those audiophiles who thinks the female voice is the ultimate evaluation tool for sound. (My friend Bob Clarke of Profundo prefers a grand piano, and I love using percussion and drums recordings that are really dynamic.) But I do understand the emotional connection that can be made when you're listening to a very realistic recording of a beautiful and talented singer. (That's kind of the point with pop singers, right?)

Kathy Sanborn's voice on this album, however, could have used a little less processing in this recording however. It's such a lush and dreamy recording, full of memorable melodies, that her voice should stand up, shake your hand and introduce itself to you. Here it seems to be floating down this river of sound, on a big inner tube, maybe a beer in its hand. I'm almost compelled to "nudge her out of the light" a bit and explain how more trip-hop elements could possibly turn this music into something bolder, especially if she's going to let someone in the studio tamper with her voice like this.

Or she can keep singing traditional jazz with a modern gloss, and record that seductive voice so it's up-front and honest and persuasive.

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