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Fight or Flight?

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Album Review

As the extraordinarily stark and emotional, crystal-clear voiced Toronto native emerges as the new standard of neo-soul/jazz in the early 2000s, much ado will be made of her greatest professional calling card — winning second place in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition. But that's just window dressing to two powerful life events which inspired Kellylee Evans to share her gifts for crisp storytelling in multiple styles with the world: the death of her mother, and nearly dying herself from an allergic reaction. Ironically, her torment is the indie music world's gain, as she proves herself on par, and even at times, surpassing contemporaries like Lizz Wright, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and even India.Arie in the realm where the sterling voice glows amidst sensual and soulful atmospheres. The connection isn't just hype; Carlos Henderson, who produced the first two tracks on Fight or Flight, the seductive folk/soul gem "What About Me?" and the yearning and jazzy "Lead Me Closer," has previously worked with Wright and Badu. What sets Evans apart from some of these other young greats is the grand variety of rhythms she glides over effortlessly. There's the old-school soul meets reggae and African-flavored percussion of "I Don't Want You to Love Me"; the hypnotic Brazilian vibe of the title track; the romantic accordion and "castanet"-laced Latin vibe of the witty "Rapunzel"; and the simmering blues sear of "I Don't Think I Want to Know." The fascinating thing is that Evans could easily have done a whole collection of more straightforward trio jazz dates like "How Can You Get Along Without Me?" and still have won hearts everywhere. Evans herself likes to peg her vibe as "urban jazz" but no turn of phrase can do this work of extraordinary soul and depth proper justice.


Born: 07 February 1975 in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Kellylee Evans' interest in jazz was accidental. Lost on the campus of Carleton University, where she studied law and English, she mistakenly reached the music department and fell for what she heard. A vocalist who crosses between jazz and mature retro R&B, her career received a push in 2004 when she finished second in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition, judged by the likes of Quincy Jones, Flora Purim, and Al Jarreau. She debuted independently in 2006 with Fight or Flight, which was nominated...
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Fight or Flight?, Kellylee Evans
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