Xavier Davis, piano
Peter Slavov, bass
Mark McLean, drums
Susan Stamberg of NPR’s Morning Edition says McKelle “brings new life to some old standards.” The Christian Science Monitor remarked, “She sings with the ease and grace of Ella Fitzgerald and the soul of Sarah Vaughan.” Jazziz declared, “Whether it’s ‘Dream,’ ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ or ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street,’ McKelle gives the words lilt, meaning and swing.”
Robin McKelle has created a stylistically ambitious follow-up to her debut that manages to evoke and honor the forties big-band sound she explored on the remarkable Introducing Robin McKelle. There are more rhythm and blues touches, revealing McKelle’s torchy side, and she concludes the album with a self-penned ballad that fits in comfortably with the American Songbook gems that precede it. Modern Antique will impress the ever-growing audience who’ve already discovered McKelle — via National Public Radio, her glowing press notices, or good old word of mouth — and it should attract the even wider audience in the U.S. she clearly deserves. The Europeans are way ahead of us when it comes to McKelle; she’s already a vocal jazz star there, seriously in demand for concert and television appearances.
These days McKelle may seem to be leading an at least semi-charmed life, especially with the way she’s been so deeply embraced in Europe after her debut was released in France. Her burgeoning success is really the result of countless gigs, lots of study and artistic drive. McKelle’s mother was a liturgical singer; McKelle herself, as a child, was drawn to pop music and musical theatre. She went to the prestigious University of Miami jazz program before deciding to transfer to Berklee. After graduating with a music degree, she spent time in Los Angeles doing back-up singer work, then returned to Boston where she formed her own trio, joined Berklee’s Voice Department and became a featured soloist with the Boston Pops. In 2004, she took third place honors at the Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C. Says McKelle, “That opened a lot of doors for me in the jazz world.”
Modern Antique – and the path that got her there – is perhaps epitomized by “Abracadabra”: A lot of hard work went into it, but all we hear is the magic.