Leah Kline's recording debut is a happy event. Kline is a very intelligent singer, in her choice of material, the notes she hits, and the way she balances interpretations of lyrics with scatting. She sings in tune and her high notes are a joy to hear. Originally a dancer and actress, she was based in Los Angeles for much of the 1990s before moving to Amsterdam in 2000. On her debut, she returned to the L.A. area to record with pianist John Rangel, bassist Michael Valerio, and drummer Lorca Hart. Playground also has guest appearances by trumpeter Larry E. Williams, Dan Weinstein on trombone, and violin and percussionist Derf Reklaw, but the focus is primarily on the singer and Rangel. The repertoire ranges from "Give Me the Simple Life," "Doodlin'," and a duet with drummer Hart on "I've Got Rhythm," to Lil Green's bluish "In the Dark," "Prelude to a Kiss," and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." One can certainly argue that "Love for Sale" and "Peel Me a Grape" did not need to be recorded again, but these renditions are fairly fresh, and balanced out by Kline's original "Call of the Muse," and a joyful "Hernando's Hideaway." For a singer to record a medley of "Tenderly" and "Midnight Sun" (two songs closely identified with Sarah Vaughan) while only backed by a bassist shows either foolhardiness or a justifiable confidence in one's own singing. Fortunately, the latter is true in this case. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow