Described by Grammy-nominated producer Bud Spangler as an "incredible talent", jazz singer Kristen Miranda has been performing nearly her whole life. Drawn to music as a very young child while growing up in a tough neighborhood in Northern California, she landed her first professional gig at the age of 14 and, at 18, headed off to UCLA to study music. There, she honed her considerable musical chops, and was one of a handful of freshmen ever admitted into UCLA’s prestigious Musical Theater Workshop. It was soon clear to her that musical theater was not her passion and, while music was still very much part of her spirit, she had not yet found her music – and had yet to find her voice. Discouraged, she left UCLA and headed to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, intent on finding the right way to try to make a contribution with her life. There, she pursued a degree in biology, planning for a career in health care. She thought she had left music for good.
At the age of 21, on the eve of a trip to Latin America, Kristen discovered jazz. A friend brought Kristen a recording of Ella Fitzgerald performing live in Berlin, and it would change the course of her life. “I’ll never forget that moment”, Kristen says now. “I remember where I was sitting, what I was wearing, the color of the walls. It was as if every sense in me had awakened. It was clear that I’d finally found what I’d been looking for. This music was grounded in improvisation, something I’d been doing my whole life in one form or another, and I loved that in-the-moment collaboration that happened on stage between musicians. That was it for me, honestly. I never looked back.”
Kristen formed a quintet and began performing in clubs all over Northern California. Over time, she developed a following. She performed in clubs and festivals all over the United States. She toured extensively in Japan and Europe, dazzling audiences with her intense musicality and charisma. She shared the stage with such jazz greats as Stanley Clarke and George Duke, Joe Williams, Marlena Shaw and Craig Chaquico. Her first recording, Transatlantic Connection, a collaboration with bassist Bootza Necak, garnered stellar reviews. But even as this recording broadened Kristen’s audience, she was becoming disillusioned with the “business” side of music. Not long after, she decided to take a break from performing to, among other things, raise a family.
As it turned out, she did not stay away forever. She got back into performing when some musician friends asked her to join their band. Working with great music and great musicians reminded her of what had been missing from her life. Since then, Kristen has returned to music with a vengeance, delighting audiences with her magnetic stage presence and soulful, swinging style. Legendary drummer and producer Bud Spangler says this of Kristen: “What I love most about Kristen is that no one sounds quite like her. You can hear the influence of Ella, for sure, but also of Betty Carter, Ernestine Anderson and Diana Krall – sometimes even Luther Vandross. She’s a soulful artist who just lights up a stage with her energy and fire. She’s at a place in her life when she knows who she is, both personally and musically, and you can feel that when you listen to her. She’s found her unique voice, full of compassion and insight. And let me tell you, she swings her ass off! This woman needs to be heard.”
Kristen’s long-awaited second recording, Double Time, is due out this spring. Produced by Spangler and featuring an all-star cast including pianist Joe Gilman, bassist John Wiitala, guitarist Steve Homan and trumpeter Tom Peron, this inspired collection should ensure Kristen a broad audience for years to come. It’s about time.
NOTE FROM KRISTEN ABOUT THE MUSIC (EXERPT FROM LINER NOTES):
I came into this recording with a list of tunes and ideas for arrangements and, from there, I brought in Bud Spangler, known to the world as a kick ass jazz producer but better known to me as my kick ass drummer and dear friend. Bud and I went to work refining my list of songs, talking through arrangements, and thinking about the right collaborators to join us. In the end, I asked Steve Homan and Scott Collard to work with us. Those working sessions, steeped in a little red wine and a lot of mutual affection and respect, were deeply satisfying (not to mention a blast).
Some of the tracks you’ll hear, like All Blues and Bye Bye Blackbird, were so simply arranged that we just talked them through in the studio and then stretched out for some fun while recording. Others were a little trickier and took some time to find our way into. Ooh Child, arguably the most oddball tune on the recording, was actually first on my list to record, but I knew we’d need to find the right approach. Steve put together a beautiful and delicate arrangement; I’ll never forget Steve, Tom and I working on this the night before recording, still trying to get it right. In the end, I think we found our way into the song– this may be my very favorite track on the record.
Having not recorded in awhile, I was a little taken aback by the wizardry available to polish and spit-shine things to a high sheen. I was intrigued, to be sure, but in the end we resisted the temptation to get things “perfect” or otherwise change things we did not get exactly right during our live recoding, knowing that in the process we would also sacrifice the magic that the band and I, along with Bud, had all felt in those two days together in the studio. Bud calls this an “honest” record. That it is. I wouldn't have had it any other way.