Broad Reach Records – 2015
14 tracks: 45 minutes
Kai Hoffman is an expat American living in London and this is her fourth album. Kai plays largely on the swing and jazz circuits (she has a regular gig at the famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London). On her fourth album Kai is backed by a combo of experienced players: Dan Faulkner on sax, Simon Picton on guitar, Liam Dunachie on piano, Dave O’Brien on bass and Mez Clough on drums; Nina Ferro adds backing vocals to three tracks. The material is a blend of ten 1950’s jazz and Rn’B tunes and four Kai originals but it is quite hard to tell which are which without the sleevenotes, all credit to Kai and her band for creating such authentic sounds.
The CD opens with Lieber and Stoller’s “Lucky Lips”, a hit for Ruth Brown in the USA and (perhaps less obviously) Cliff Richard in the UK! It’s a great tune with which to open as the sax underpins the sassy vocal – it must be guaranteed to get the dancers on to the floor live! Two Wynona Carr tunes follow, in contrasting styles: “Jump Jack Jump” is what one might expect from the title and features an excellent solo from Simon while “It’s Raining Outside” is a doo-wop piece with the band offering some good backing vocals and a fine sax solo. Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke were the writers of “Pennies From Heaven”; their less well-known “The Night Is Never Long Enough” is a jazz lounge ballad with late night piano and Kai sounding very seductive. Most of the songs here are quite short in length, none more so than the first original, the title track, a fast-paced rocker with plenty of piano and an exciting sax break. “TV Is The Thing This Year” is great with lots of double entendres – obviously from the title a song of a certain age, written by Phil Medley and William Sanford and originally recorded by Dinah Washington. “Star Of Fortune” is a jazz tune written by Bernie Bierman and has the same sort of exotic rhythms as Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” together with lyrical references to the Arabian Nights.
Kai and bassist Dave’s “Late Night Joints” is a classic jazz ballad with Kai describing the scene in the club: “Disappointment etched deep in the green tinged light of a late night bar where you can drink all night”. It’s the longest tune here and affords the opportunity for superb piano and sax work in the middle section. Lifting the mood is the classic “I Want You To Be My Baby”, Jon Hendricks’ song given a solid reading by the band, the rhythm section swinging like crazy and Kai handling the tongue-twisting lyrics very well. Another Kai/ Dave composition “Seat Of Your Pants” is a strong vehicle for Kai’s vocals and her solo tune “Hot Rockin’ Diva” does what the title suggests with hand claps and rocking piano accompanying Kai. Jesse Stone’s “Lies Lies Lies” was a vehicle for Annisteen Allen, a song in which the singer has discovered the truth and realises that she has been led astray; in “Deep Sea Ball” Kai returns to the rock n’ roll/doo-wop style, Scott Winfield’s song (recorded by Clyde McPhatter) running through some amusing images of the sea creatures present at the ball and sax player Dan having some fun. The album closes with a good interpretation of Henry Glover’s much-covered “Drown In My Own Tears”; not as dramatic as Ray Charles but excellently sung by Kai with the band in fine form as ever.
This is not strictly a blues album but will undoubtedly appeal to those who enjoy that musical place where vintage Rn’B and jazz intersect. This reviewer certainly enjoyed it!