4 REVIEWS FOLLOWED BY BIOGRAPHY
1 of 4
All about Jazz .com
8 September 2004
Leah Kline's debut CD certainly is a Playground of fresh and creative new ideas that just simply add up to a lot of fun for the listener. Someone would have to be hard pressed to not like this recording by the Amsterdam-based Kline and her supporting group of Los Angeles-based jazz musicians. What they have assembled is a collection of new and unique arrangements that provide a fresh take on jazz standards such as "Doodlin,'" "Prelude to a Kiss," "Peel Me a Grape" and pop songs like "Wives and Lovers," "Hernando's Hideaway," "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend," and "Tenderly." Kline also adds one original to the mix with her lyrics on "Call of the Muse," set to music composed by Joost van de Knaap.
One of the fun elements of this recording is Kline's voice. Her presentation possesses a certain bluesy swagger with a Mae West "Why don't you come up and see me some time" attitude. These qualities are most evident on the opening track, an arrangement of Horace Silver's "Doodlin'" with vocalese by Jon Hendricks. Kline negotiates large mouthfuls of lyrics with insouciant aplomb and hipness. The "come hither" part of Kline's musical personality shines most brightly in the arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love For Sale." Pianist John Rangel's Latin-styled arrangement and the somewhat melodramatic introduction show off what must be an exciting stage presence for Kline when she performs live.
Her performance on the Johnny Hodges/Duke Ellington classic "Prelude to a Kiss" turns this romantic ballad on a tangent from Hodges' familiar excruciating ecstasy to more of a lover's sweet and gentle caress, presented lovingly and simply with only Rangel's piano accompanying. Another unique approach is Kline's rendition of "I've Got Rhythm," accompanied only by the rhythm of drummer Lorca Hart. There are also some passages where Kline demonstrates her ability to scat sing when trading fours with drummer Hart.
With all of the jazz singers out and about today, Leah Kline is certainly one worthy of notice. Her debut CD is certainly a playground of great creativity, musicianship, and fun. I look forward to her next recording project.
~ Craig W. Hurst
2 of 4
Los Angeles Jazz Scene April edition 2004
Leah Kline's recording debut is a happy event. Ms. Kline is a very intelligent singer in her choice of material, the notes she hits and the way she balances interpretations of lyrics with scatting. She sings in tune and her high notes are a joy to hear.
Originally a dancer and actress, she was based in Los Angeles for much of the 1990s before moving to Amsterdam in 2000. On her debut, she returned to the L.A. area to record with pianist John Rangel, bassist Mike Valerio and drummer Lorca Hart. Playground also has guest appearances by trumpeter Larry Williams, Dan Weinstein on trombone and violin and percussionist Derf Reklaw, but the focus is primarily on the singer and Rangel.
The repertoire ranges from "Give Me The Simple Life," "Doodlin'," and a duet with drummer Hart on "I've Got Rhythm" to Lil Green's bluish "In The Dark," "Prelude To A Kiss" and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend." One can certainly argue that "Love For Sale" and "Peel Me A Grape" did not need to be recorded again, but these renditions are fairly fresh, and balanced out by Ms. Kline's original "Call Of The Muse" and a joyful "Hernando's Hideaway." For a singer to record a medley of "Tenderly" and "Midnight Sun" (two songs closely identified with Sarah Vaughan) while only backed by a bassist shows either foolhardiness or a justifiable confidence in one's own singing. Fortunately the latter is true in this case.
This impressive set is available from www.leahkline.com.
3 of 4
www.culture-tech.org march/ april
"music you must hear".......
Léah Kline moved to Amsterdam from Los Angeles, went back to L.A. to record her first CD, Playground, then resumed her career doing club dates and cabarets in Amsterdam. She's picked up a Dutch accent to accompany her American ambitions. Judging from the press and the enthusiasm on the faces of her audiences, one could bet that she puts on a pretty good show.
Once you hear Playground, you'll want to book a table wherever she's playing.
Léah Kline brings a lightness and humor to this album of well-chosen standards that is not heard too often these days. She reminds us that it's alright to have fun with the music without suborning its cultural importance. You have to be pretty good to not take yourself too seriously. And she's
more than pretty good. On the other hand, she can be sultry in a no-nonsense kind of way and, on "Wives and Lovers", she really lets a woman know where she stands, a standout in a set of nicely arranged songs that are well-played and sung with authority.
She starts off swinging right away on "Doodlin'", Horace Silver and Jon Hendricks' song that lands its narrator in a hospital psych ward. She understands the implicit humor in the song and adds her own flourishes. This is not as obvious a feat as one would suppose. Many singers are more involved with their sty lings than with the lyric of a song. This involvement with the lyric brings to mind Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Shirley Horn (she doesn't imitate Ms. Horn's rendition of "Peel Me A Grape", ala Diana Krall, who seemed to copy Ms. Horn's exact phrasings on every song she sang until she found her own style), Carmen McRae, and, of course, Billie Holiday. I do Ms. Kline no disservice to say that she is not at the level of artistry that these singers are and were. They lived a whole lot of life, joyful and agonizing, to arrive at their defining styles. Léah Kline is still young, but a veteran of the cabaret circuit, and is obviously living and learning quite a bit. She approaches these songs with an obvious confidence, clarity, and very appealing theatricality, apparently arrived at by honing her live performances. She is very adept at interpreting a lyric and evincing the random wry smile. On Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" she begins with a flight of operatic whimsy before an earthy interpretation of the lyric to a Latin backdrop.
The band (John Rangel on piano, Mike Valerio on bass, and Lorca Hart on drums) is fine throughout, but really shines on "Alone Together", and benefits by the fine djembe and conga playing of Derf Reklaw.
She slows it down on Duke Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss"; proving she is more than capable of evoking and sustaining a moment of tenderness and truth; and she lovingly extends this feeling on the touching "Tenderly/Midnight Sun" medley.
There are subtle tempo changes throughout Playground, reflecting a well-thought out date. Good thing, because all sixteen songs were recorded live in one day. You'd never know it. This is a very enjoyable disc, perfect for a dinner party or a lazy afternoon with friends. Léah Kline is one to watch out for
-Barry Nix (www.culture-tech.org)
4 of 4
Jazz Express- Holland Feb/March 2004
- Henk de Boer
Play ground is the debut CD from Léah Kline -who is no stranger to our jazz club since it was here that she made her Netherlands debut a few years back with singer Ingram Washington. Since then she has let herself be known as a very versatile singer and entertainer who knows how to set not only a surefire swing number in motion, but also fascinating story-telling songs. "Play ground" this is certainly a well chosen title for a CD which shows off her voice quality and versatility in a convincing manner.
For example; swingy jazzy numbers 'Give me the Simple Life' and 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friends' the last in which you also hear a cabaret element peeking out of the corner. The same goes for atmosphere songs like 'Peel me a Grape' and 'Pure Imagination'. In contrast to that is an original performance of Alone Together with intriguing percussion from conga's and djembe. They pull out just about everything, bongo's, conga's, djembe, trumpet and trombone, in a Latin performance of 'Love for Sale' and in 'Hernando's Hideaway'
There is an incredible versatile professionalism to hear throughout her American accompanists. Pianist John Rangel is responsible for the majority of the arrangements and is the solo accompanist of the unusually beautiful Ellington-song 'Prelude to a Kiss' and a splendid original. 'Call of the Muse'. Similarly special is the pretty combination 'Tenderly' and 'Midnight Sun' with only the bass of Mike Valerio, and 'I Got Rhythm' with the diverse drum sounds of Lorca Hart. On Léah's own website you can listen to short fragments of six songs.
It is possible that some listeners, will at first, hesitate at the indeed rather diverse music genres on this CD. But the binding factor remains the straightforwardness and at the same time complexity of Léah's singing that you, in the end, just have to experience. Perhaps, all at once, after you have listened say three times , as has happened to me with particular numbers, you begin to hear nuances that before had eluded you. Listen to the beautiful closing song 'Pure Imagination' with that subtle sound of the 'rain stick' in the background.
Miss Léah Kline is an accomplished stage performer and has enjoyed the privilege of having performed in virtually every field of entertainment. Equally at ease before an audience of 2,000 as with one of 30, she has entertained audiences in Europe, Asia, Canada and the US. As a singer, Léah is noted for her personal delivery and phrasing of songs paying great respect to the meaning of the lyrics. Particularly well received for her vivacious stage presence and clear melodic tones, her phrasing and interpretation has earned favorable attention from jazz fans. She currently resides in Amsterdam, where she enjoys a full performing and teaching schedule. She is a welcomed vocalist at many fine musical establishments, festivals and jazz clubs in Germany, Holland and France and performs regularly with either her own group or as a guest singer in diverse settings ranging from trios to 17 piece Big Bands.
She is a member of the Jazz Vocal Coalition (LA), Cabaret West, Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity Association.
Léah's music study began in a church bell choir, an intensive high school music program, chorus, chamber singer groups, and musicals. Léah graduated early from the esteemed North Carolina School of the Arts (Winston-Salem, NC) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Modern Dance and began her career by directing and choreographing for her own modern dance company in Washington D.C. She then moved to Los Angeles to concentrate more on performing herself. After an earthquake and a physical accident preventing her from dancing, she took a USO tour as a singer and began to seriously consider her future as a vocalist. She studied the Bel Canto technique with teacher Robert Edwards and established herself by 1996 in the Los Angeles Jazz scene. This was also the beginning of her "Jazz Cabaret" performances - jazz and musical theater repertoire threaded together with a theme, conversation, and backed by a jazz trio or quartet instead of the traditional single pianist. In addition to theater and television work in LA, Léah has performed in the US and Asia as a soloist, master of ceremonies-presenter, and as a singer for Seabourn cruise lines.
Léah moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands in 2000 to "check out the European scene" and swept up by the American Songbook Theater's musical production of 'There's no Business Like Show Business', the life story of Irving Berlin and his music (learning Dutch along the way). Leah was selected to participate in The Ann Burton Tribute, worked with the Glenn Miller Memorial Orchestra under the direction of Gert Jan van den Dolder; performed in the Joop van den Ende productions '42nd Street' 2001 and 'Musicals in Ahoy' 2002, and created and tours theaters in Holland with her Jazz Cabaret Show.
She is a welcomed vocalist at many fine musical establishments, festivals and jazz clubs and performs regularly with either her own group or as a guest singer in diverse settings ranging from trios to 17 piece Big Bands in Germany, France and Holland.
She regularly co-hosts a local radio program in Amstelveen: the Jazz Corner.
She is a guest teacher at Amsterdam's Theater School, coaches privately, and gives workshops on performance, intention and song interpretation of prepared music and improvisational music.
Léah returns to LA every year to perform with her LA musicians. This last trip produced
her debut CD Playground (~Theatrics~, released in Holland January 2004). This CD, recorded with her Los Angeles music partner John Rangel and fellow LA Musicians, documents the years of performances and arrangements they created together in LA; what Léah lovingly calls "Jazz Cabaret".