April 1, 2021

Jazz writer Scott Yanow reviews Certain Elements

Happy to share the following from noted jazz writer Scott Yanow, who recently reviewed my most-recent album, Certain Elements, in LA Jazz Scene:

Karla Harris has a beautiful voice, impeccable diction, and the ability to make her improvisations a logical part of the song that she is interpreting. She started out as part of St. Louis’ jazz scene, moved to Portland in 2005 where she worked often, and made a strong impression with her first CD 2007’s Twice As Nice, a collaboration with Tom Kennedy that found her performing fresh versions of standards. After moving to Atlanta in 2012, she recorded Karla Harris Sings The Dave and Iola Brubeck Songbook, the first CD that featured a vocalist performing a full set of Brubeck compositions.  

Certain Elements is a bit different. Ms. Harris sings seven of her own songs plus four other numbers including tunes by Michel Legrand, Bill Withers, and Terry Kirkman. The emphasis is more on the lyrics and crosses over between jazz, pop/jazz, light r&b and vintage pop. But while none of the songs are tunes that one would expect to hear at jam sessions, Karla Harris stretches them and creates spontaneous flights.

The singer is joined by several different rhythm sections including pianists Randy Porter, George Colligan, Kevin Bales and Dan Gaynor. On “Lean On Me,” the late pianist Mark Simon contributed the arrangement and played on the opening section; after he passed away his brother Fred Simon finished the rest of the performance.

Even with brief solos from some of the sidemen (mostly the pianists), the focus is very much on Karla Harris’ voice. Among the highlights are the message of “Set Sophia Free,“ the sensuous yet subtle mood of “The Way He Makes Me Feel,” the swinging “When Michael,” “Interlude” (a menacing strut), and the ballad “Do I Still Figure In Your Life.”

Certain Elements displays Karla Harris’ growth as a singer, improviser, and especially as a songwriter. While she is realizing her great potential, one also looks forward to her future projects.

-Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Jazz Singers

Link to the published article: http://lajazzscene.buzz/waxing-poetic-reviews/