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Kinhan gives voice to her jazz muse PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Friday, 17 January 2014 11:14
Lauren Kinhan took her time stepping out as a singer.
Growing up in Portland, Ore., her passion was ballet. She studied dance for 12 years.
Kinhan's connection to jazz came through her father. He played in big bands and Dixieland combos, and she'd go listen to him play.
When she was a teenager she'd sometimes sit in. That's when people pointed out to her that her voice was something special.
It wasn't until she was 21 and had already studied psychology and business in college that she dove into jazz, dove into the deep end, the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Once there, she said in a recent telephone interview, "I was all in. I was tenacious. I was voracious. I tried out for everything." She focused the discipline of a ballet dancer to the study of swing and improvisation.
Kinhan ended up graduating in two years, and then New York waited.
That was 25 years ago, and now Kinhan has released her third solo session, "Circle in a Square," which reflects on her love of jazz and her desire to leave her mark on the music she loves.
Kinhan, with pianist Shea Pierre, bassist Jeff Halsey, drummer Roger Schupp and guitarist Chris Buzzelli, will perform original music from that CD Thursday at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall in Bowling Green State University's Moore Musical Arts Center. The same ensemble will also perform Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Degage Jazz Café, 301 River Road, Maumee.
Kinhan's no stranger to campus. For the past 21 years she's been a member of the New York Voices, which holds a week-long jazz vocal summer camp at BGSU every August.
While most of the originals on "Circle in a Square" were written in the last few years, she also brings one of her earliest tunes to the date "Vanity's Paramour."
The song was written reflecting what it was like to be a 25-year-old singer arriving in New York to pursue a music career.
Coming next to last on the set it serves as a bookend with the opening title track, a reflection on Kinhan's enduring love of music.
"I'm paying homage to the roots of jazz and the classics of jazz," she said.  
"My Painted Lady Buttterfly," for example, is a jazz waltz, inspired by Bill Evans' standard "Waltz for Debby."
"I wanted songs on the record that resonated in that way," she said. But she also wanted to widen the focus. "Some of the other tunes really meander out further."
They reflect her myriad influences, the classic jazz vocals of Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald with the jazz fusion of the Brecker Brothers and the sophisticated folk-pop of Joni Mitchell. "Those inspirations are in my bones," she said. "There's all kinds of references to my inspirations."
That includes a guest appearance by trumpeter Randy Brecker.
"In many ways I still very similar to that young woman first embarking in New York City and wondering what possibly could happen."
One major event that happened was meeting and collaborating with  fellow singer-songwriter Peter Eldridge.
He was a member of the New York Voices who were then getting airplay for their versions of "Round Midnight" and "Stolen Moments." The vocal ensemble was looking for a second soprano, and he encouraged her to apply.
Kinhan hesitated. She was just launching a solo career. Her manager encouraged her to try, then she looked at the Voices charts. "I knew once I got the music I was going to have to join this group. It was so substantial, so meaty."
The ensemble's approach fit what she wanted to do, sing like a horn player, compose and arrange. While the ensemble has a tight, blended sound as heard in its recent holiday CD "Let It Snow," the individual voices are never subsumed in the whole.
Fellow voice Darmon Meader compares it to a big band saxophone section which has "a bristly sound" that projects the character and buzz" of each individual's sound combined to produce a wave of harmony.
Working with the ensemble also complemented Kinhan's more freewheeling nature.
"I continue to be a little more free spirited and raw," she said. "I've learned the discipline of layering, arranging and structuring."
"Circle in a Square" exemplifies that. "It was a good marriage of me being as bold and alive and having that fiery spirit of the writing but at the same time there's that foundation, that tradition and that structure."

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