New England has been home to many excellent vocalists on the distaff side like Donna Byrne, Kris Adams, Krisanthi Pappas, Carol Akerson, and Rebecca Parris, among others. With her inaugural album, The Dreamer, Kathleen Kolman has earned a spot on that roster. The album's playlist avoids the comfortable standard classic material of Cole Porter, the Gershwin Brothers, Johnny Mercer, and JimmyVan Heusen. Instead, her musical agenda is comprised of tunes which haven't received the same recording attention as the more famous entries in the Great American Songbook, but which nonetheless attract performers known for their good taste. Kolman favors songs that lean toward the melancholy, which suits her full, deep voice as on the doleful "Where Do You Start." Her rendition of "Detour Ahead" ranks up there with recordings by Billie Holiday, Teri Thornton, and Jeri Southern. Room has been made on this track for a short but tasteful drum solo by Les Harris, Jr. The album's opener "Let's Get Lost" is done medium tempo and showcases Mark Shilansky's spare, minimalist but tuneful piano. Kolman's comfort with Latin rhythms is apparent as she whisks through Jobim's "The Dreamer" and the Menescal/Boscoli-penned "Little Boat." On the first, Charlie Jennison's Herbie Mann-like flute gets center stage, and, on the second, his smooth, in-tune soprano saxophone. The passion in Kolman's voice makes "As Long as He Needs Me" a truly emotional experience as Jennison's stirring tenor sax optimizes Kolman's dramatic expression, making this track one of the highlights of the album. Sensual anticipation is the mood on "Fever" with Jennison's tenor again helping to sustain the mood. Uptempo material is not entirely ignored as Kolman swings on "You Hit the Spot," a ditty written by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel for the 1936 film Collegiate. Kolman chose excellent area musicians to accompany her to the studio to do this album, and they earn credit for its success. Mark Shilansky's piano is sympathetic with and supportive of Kolman throughout. Flautist and saxman Charlie Jennison's superior solo work has already been mentioned. John Lockwood is a bass player of choice in the New England area. His virtuosity is put on display on the album's coda, "Triste." Lockwood, with Les Harris' drums, gives real meaning to the old rubric that "if you get the rhythm section right, playing the song is easy." The Dreamer is a fine, outside-the-box effort by Kathleen Kolman and is recommended.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan