Mood Swings (Chiaroscuro Jazz)
By Neil Tesser, Chicago
On Mood Swings (Chiaroscuro), her new second album, Detroit-area vocalist Kathy Kosins tries to do it all. She had a hand in composing the majority of the material on the disc, including my favorite tracks--several sparky jazz tunes on which her husky, honeyed voice stands out nicely against the rhythm-and-horns backdrops. She also pursues the smooth-jazz audience with a few earnest ballads that don't ask much, targets nostalgic baby boomers with a surprisingly effective take on Hendrix's "Foxey Lady," and indulges a taste for the theatrical on a couple cuts, leading a slickly arranged choir reminiscent of the New York Voices--a group more at home at a supper club than on a jazz stage. On her most successful originals, like the hipster anthem "I Was There" and the lighthearted throwback "Livin' in Style" (which cries out for a Preston Sturges setting), she throws her voice into the melodies, but pulls back a little with her inflection so the lyrics come out cool; the songs themselves have a great midtempo Horace Silver bounce. My preference for these tunes, though, hasn't blinded me to Kosins's craftsmanship on the others. A former backup singer and arranger for pop-R & B artisans Was (Not Was), she's staking out a middle ground between the musical risk taking of jazz and the heart-raking confessions of pop, attempting to blend the strengths of each genre. Whether she ultimately succeeds or fails, her own strengths--solid intonation, unwavering swing, and a voice that can conjure both the girl next door and her older, wiser sister--ought to come in handy along the way. Though she plays in Chicago infrequently, Kosins nonetheless has one foot in the local scene. Several Chicago players (saxist Jim Gailloreto, guitarist Dave Onderdonk, bassist Eric Hochberg, percussionist Ruben Alvarez) perform on Mood Swings, alongside Detroit stalwarts like tenor saxophonist Shawn "Thunder" Wallace--a kind of regional synergy I hope more musicians pursue.