Christine Hitt

You'd Be Nice to Come Home To

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An artist from Minnesota who studied piano at U-Minnesota and U-Arizona, Hitt recorded these sessions at Southern Illinois University and Studio 88 in St. Louis. This is her debut CD, revealing her talents as a pleasant enough vocalist and pianist whose ultimate comparison could be to Diana Krall, but who ostensibly sounds nothing like the pop-jazz chanteuse. In fact, Hitt plays better piano and sings in a less affected way -- very naturally and comfortably in her midrange. She's not histrionic, but she scats quite skillfully on many occasions, swings without flash or cabaret inclinations, and avoids blatant cuteness. Bassist Tom Kennedy and drummers Jeff Hamilton (five cuts) and Todd Strait (nine cuts) stoke the rhythm, while guitarist Rick Haydon and clarinetist Scott Alberici appear here and there. Ray Kennedy is credited on piano, but his name is missing from any track listings; Hitt sings and plays her own piano throughout, unless there's a typo. This program of 15 standards varies as one might expect, from love ballads and Brazilian music to fun tunes, though there isn't much blues. Hitt scats on the title track, and on "Joyride" she scats exclusively, not singing a written lyric; she employs clipped phrases on the lyric and mad scat on the bridge for the frantic "What Is This Thing Called Love?." On pieces with more relaxed, patient tempos, such as "Dream a Little Dream of Me," Hitt adopts a cozy style; she stays well within herself on "Thou Swell," and emphasizes her upper register to its detriment during "What'll I Do?." South-of-the-border pieces include a uniquely arranged 7/8 to 4/4 samba variation of the e.e. cummings Pooh-bear treat "Sitting in a Tree," the interesting clarinet- and guitar-based "Moonlight," and the fairly standard bossa take of "A Time for Love." Old-time swing with clarinet and strummed guitar on "Moonglow" and "In a Mellow Tone" harkens back to melancholy roots and traditions. On the torch ballad side, Hitt certainly offers an acceptable degree of emotional expressiveness for "My Foolish Heart" and "I've Got a Crush on You," without growing too melodramatic. There are two cuts with no singing that prove her to be quite an able instrumentalist. An exceptional interpretation of "Beautiful Love" sounds like she's played all her life. A waltz treatment of "Sometime Ago" is strangely credited with vocals that never come -- possibly another typo. There's also a bonus CD-ROM video track, "In the Wee Small Hours." For all the things Hitt is, she is not obvious, and that's the best part of her persona. Let others blast you with mushy multi-layered strings, loud beats, or nastily belted-out lyrics; she's searching for something deeper and more profound, and most times on this fine CD, she hits the mark. Recommended.

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