Karen Blixt

Spin This

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Appearances can be deceiving when it comes to music. In some photos, Karen Blixt sports a singer/songwriter-ish type of look -- the sort of folk-rock or adult alternative look that one might have if she were opening for Sarah McLachlan, Jonatha Brooke, Patty Larkin or the Indigo Girls. Well, there is certainly nothing wrong with opening for any of those artists -- a lot of young singer/songwriters would kill for the opportunity -- but Blixt's debut album, Spin This, has nothing to do with folk-rock or adult alternative. The Bay Area resident is clearly a hardcore jazz vocalist; Blixt has the type of post-bop/hard bop hipness one associates with Sheila Jordan, Kitty Margolis, Judy Niemack and Karrin Allyson, sometimes adding a touch of soul-jazz. Blixt (who is joined by organist Joey DeFrancesco on four of the tracks) doesn't get as deeply into soul-jazz as Ernestine Anderson or Dee Dee Bridgewater, but the soul-jazz element is definitely present on Count Basie's "Swingin' the Blues" and a few other tracks. Blixt pays a little too much attention to warhorses for her own good; "Night and Day," "When You're Smiling" and "I Thought About You" have been so beaten to death over the years that most of the younger jazz singers would do well to avoid them. But Blixt does offer her share of surprises; "Carefully Taught" is a Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein tune that hasn't been overdone, and the title track (which Blixt co-wrote with pianist/keyboardist Frank Gayer Martin) is a clever but angry political rant with an Eddie Jefferson-ish vibe. Also quite engaging is Blixt and Martin's melancholy "Kitchen Blue." Despite its excess of warhorses, Spin This is a generally promising debut and makes one hope that Blixt's catalog will grow to be much larger.

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