Kristin Korb: What If / Why Not

The Denmark-domiciled US bassist imagines doing a pop album and paying tribute to her mentor Ray Brown


One of many special memories I have from the Ystad, Sweden Jazz Festival is of a standout performance in 2014 by the American, now Danish-domiciled bassist and vocalist Kristin Korb – when, among other things, she melded Kind Of Blue pizzicato figures with James Brown-like testifying and Irene Kral’s signature piece Better Than Anything. Delicious! As is this double-CD release.

A most accomplished musician, with an easy-on-the-ear yet often adventurous way with a vocal, Korn is also a fine arranger and most of the credits here are hers.

What If / Why Not expands to What If . . . I Made A Pop Album? and Why Not . . . A Tribute To Ray Brown? Why not, indeed? Twenty-five years ago, Korb released Introducing Kristin Korb, with her mentor Ray Brown. As Korb puts it, “Ray opened the world to me through that CD. He inspired me in so many ways and challenged me always to bring my ‘A’ game”.

That game is evident throughout a pleasure-rich Brown tribute of intelligently cast swingers and ballads, with Korb’s now lively, now reflective vocals and unforced, spot-on bass lines complemented by tasty, elegantly sprung work from Hjorth and Kirk, with Skamby contributing extra percussion to Dave Frishberg’s Zanzibar.

Highlights include Korb’s soulful, dynamically assured vocals on, e.g., Come Rain Or Come Shine, I’ve Told Every Little Star and Duke Ellington’s Warm Valley, plus her extensively diversified scat on Sommervind – but the whole programme simply flies by.

The other proposition – What If . . . I Made A Pop Album – furnishes another highly enjoyable session, including pieces by Stevie Wonder (Overjoyed), James Taylor (Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight), The Beatles (Can’t Buy Me Love) and Heinz Meier and Johnny Mercer (Summer Wind). I find it hard to listen to any version of the last-named without recalling the classic Sinatra/Riddle version from 1966, but Korb’s more overtly swinging rendition sets up some fine scat. And while I’m not the greatest fan of “jazzing the Beatles”, Korb’s treatment of Can’t Buy Me Love sits well enough in a programme where Hjorth and Kirk are again top-notch throughout, complemented by telling instrumental colour and texture from Almqvist, Heise, Hansen and Serfaty. Enjoy, especially, Almqvist’s fluid and potent tenor on Copacabana and Lonely Tonight, Heise’s equally engaging harmonica on the now lightly funky, now swinging The Power Of Love and Can’t Buy Me Love, and Hansen’s finely variegated trombone solo on This Is My Life.

Korb’s bass, vocals and scat – and arrangements – impress once more. Check the range, from the hip and exhilarating Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to the musing and yearning Lonely Tonight, with its lovely pizzicato spot, and the initially meditative, then building and soaring My Life. Generous, life-affirming music, shot through with (but not swamped by) personality and literate artistry alike.

[What If] (1) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; Copacabana; Overjoyed; The Power Of Love; This Is My Life; Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight; Can’t Buy Me Love (36.38)
[Why Not?] (2) Come Rain Or Shine; I’ve Told Every Little Star; I Surrender Dear; Warm Valley; Zanzibar; Summer Wind; Sommervind (31.19)

(1) Korb (b, v); Magnus Hjorth (p); Snorre Kirk (d) plus variously Karl-Martin Almqvist (ts); Mathias Heise (harm); Steen Nikolaj Hansen (tb); Aaron Serfaty (pc); Tira Skamby (pc). Denmark c. 2020/21.
(2) Korb (b, v); Hjorth (p); Kirk (d); plus Tira Skamby (pc) on Zanzibar. Denmark c. 2020/21.
DoubleK Music DKM21221