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Modern Antique

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Album Review

Robin McKelle is a California based singer who enjoys the big-band sound, as well as old-time singers like Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington, reflective in her voice. She has a slightly sultry, at times girlish sound that is striving for vintage sophistication, but also relies on contemporary song stylist precepts. She's not Norah Jones, Diana Krall, or Joni Mitchell by a long shot, and not trying to be. She sounds quite similar to Detroit based vocalist Kathy Kosins in her phrasing and affectations. The problem with this recording, her third, is that it is way overproduced, not in a contemporary synthesizer soaked way, for all of the arrangements are acoustically derived. But the rather large horn section and strings dominate this stylized singer on too many occasions. It will be good someday to hear her with a much smaller ensemble, but meanwhile, you have a fairly good representation of what McKelle sounds like doing a Las Vegas type show set. The program starts off smart enough with of a swinging and rousing version of Steve Miller's "Abracadabra," with McKelle tossing in some good scat singing. A montuno/Afro-Cuban take of "Comes Love" shows the sexy influence of Lee, while the slight contemporary light rock beat tacked on to "I Want to Be Loved" is a popular concession, but the orchestration drenches this tune. Veteran tenor saxophone soloist Pete Christlieb shines on the string infused easy swinger "Cheek to Cheek," while flugelhorn and trumpet guest Joe Magnarelli is strong and supple for the breezy "Day by Day" and stands out during the very complementary chart of "Make Someone Happy." McKelle scats again and quite effectively for "Lullaby of Birdland" with interesting staggered phrasings above a less orchestrated backdrop — a good thing for her. She also plays piano while singing on her original, the closer "Remember," a pop ballad with strings and laden with the otherwise tasteful guitarist Larry Kuhns. This band has some other good players like trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, saxophonists Bob Shepard or Andy Snitzer, and bassist Reggie McBride, but their individualism is all but smothered. This CD will appeal to a certain audience, but there's nothing new or innovative, save the occasional vocal excursions of the clearly talented McKelle. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Jazz Times Review

JAZZ TIMES, AUGUST, 2008 She’s a Berklee grad and a Thelonius Monk Vocal Jazz Competition   finalist. She often sounds a lot like Anita O’Day, except when she   sounds eerily like Nancy Wilson. She’s blessed with O’Day’s   indefatigable verve as well as her innate sense of swing, and echoes   Wilson’s relaxed authority. Two years ago, she delivered a dynamite   debut disc, Introducing Robin McKelle, embracing a retro big-band vibe   with the ease and intelligence of a softer-edged Bette Midler. Now   she's back with a second big-band effort even better than the first.   Willie Murillo, who steered much of the previous album, again serves   as principal arranger. But Chris Barron, Gordon Goodwin, Randy   Waldman, pianist Alain Mallet and McKelle herself also contribute   arrangements; and remarkably, considering the number of cooks stirring   the pot, the results are not only consistently good but also   seamlessly consistent. For  fans of gorgeous standards lovingly   nestled in ideal settings and sung with impeccable beauty and style,   Modern Antique is essential listening. But McKelle and company go a   few captivating steps further: first by transforming rocker Steve   Miller's '80s chart-toppet "Abracadabra" into three-and-a-half minutes   of pure, inventive jazz pleasure;  then by doubling the strength of   the Nina Simone anthem "Go to Hell" by defusing its anger and   replacing it with assured wisdom; and, finally, by exiting on tiptoe   (just McKelle on vocals and piano, supported by a gentle wave of   strings) with the tenderly reflective, self-penned ballad "Remember."

Not a BAD sophomore delivery, but alittle shy of her debut

Well - I was one of the first to be "in line" to buy her new album this week - however, it is not growing on me as fast or as furiously as her debut album did. She has some real bright spots on this album, but I also feel that she is vocally trying too hard on some of the songs. Musically - the album is crisp, clean and well produced, but Robin's melodic voice is not given the opportunity to shine and flow as clearly as I have heard her before. I still am glad that I bought the album and her talent is amazing, this album just has not done it for me as her previous album did.

absolutley fabulous

A WONDERFUL sophmore album....Robin's voice only continues to improve and mature, to wrap its way around improvisation as well as providing an excellent example of flawless vocal technique. The charts are great, her rhythm section is could not ask for more in the way of exquisite new jazz albums. I only wish she would tour more in the US!! :) Well done, Robin!


Born: 1976 in Rochester, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Robin McKelle is a vocalist who has straddled the line between classic rhythm & blues and traditional pop music, but her love of swing and big-band jazz has been even more pronounced. A young Robin McElhatten grew up in Rochester, NY, the daughter of a liturgical vocalist. She took classical piano lessons and played French horn for ten years, and her early influences included Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, and Gladys Knight. By her late teens she was more intrigued by the content of...
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Modern Antique, Robin McKelle
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Customer Ratings