New York Music Daily

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Tag: jazz-pop

A Historic Rickie Lee Jones Performance Opens This Year’s Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival

Iconic beatnik rock songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Rickie Lee Jones opened this year’s Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival last night playing her cult favorite 1981 Pirates album cover to cove for the first time ever. There are other must-see outdoor festivals in this city – the ongoing slate of shows at Prospect Park Bandshell is particularly enticing – but year after year, this series has plenty of sonic treats for both the cognoscenti and the merely curious. And Damrosch Park grows more and more hospitable as other parts of town go in the opposite direction.

“Pirates is forty-four minutes long,” Jones explained. “We stretched the integrity of the grooves.” What she meant by that was that there’s only so much music you can fit on a side of a vinyl album. Cram the grooves too close together and not is the sound compromised: a bad needle can do twice as much damage. “That was a long time ago,” Jones shrugged.

Her voice is more weathered now, but she still hits the high notes, arguably with more authenticity than she had when she made the record – although by that time she’d already established herself among the indomitable, resolute outsiders who populate her street scenes and wee-hours narratives. What’s most striking about the album is how surprisingly well it holds together despite Jones’ stylistic leapfrogging, from allusive latin grooves, to oldschool 60s soul, hints of gospel and the occasional detour down toward glimmering neoromanticism..

So it made sense that it was basically Steely Dan who backed her on the record. This time out, the seven-piece group behind her punched in when required, otherwise providing a low-key backdrop for Jones’ incisive, emphatic piano. Guitarist Tony Scherr took all of one solo all night on his Gibson SG, an understatedly moody, bluesy couple of bars. Likewise, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, tenor saxophonist Michael Blake, and the group’s multi-reedman, multi-percussionist, bassist and drummer rose together when a chorus or a turnaround would hit a peak.

Jones has switched out her signature coy chirp from forty years ago for a gracefully melismatic approach that shows off how much low-register power she’s gained over the years. She’s aged magnificently well: it would be fair to say that she’s grown into herself. In that context, her late-night cat-and-mouse flirtation scenarios and character studies of the down-but-hardly-out have gained poignancy. The tales on this album include but are hardly limited to a death by police shooting, a pregnancy, lots of moving around, endings and new beginnings and enough banter for two, maybe three Bo Diddley records. At the end, Jones finally emerged from behind the piano, sauntered around the stage, picked up her acoustic guitar and led the band through a tightly dancing, understatedly triumphant take of Traces of the Western Slopes.

Lincoln Center Out of Doors continues tonight at 7 PM at Damrosch Park with a four-act extravaganza from across the latin music spectrum: fiery, dramatic belter Xenia Rubinos,  trippy downtempo guy Helado Negro,  our own Alynda Segarra aka Hurray For the Riff Raff, and finally fearlessly populist LA folk-punks Las Cafeteras,

A Deliciously Grim, Old-Fashioned Multimedia Creation from Curtis Eller and the New Town Drunks

This year’s most memorable and individualistic Halloween artifact is Baudelaire in a Box: Songs of Anguish. It’s an ep by charismatic noir Americana songwriter/banjoist Curtis Eller in collaboration with Chapel Hill folk noir/circus rock band the New Town Drunks. And it’s a whole lot more than just a playlist or a cd. It’s a digital release – streaming at Bandcamp – that comes with a handcrafted volvelle that allows you to follow along with the songs’ grim imagery through a window above the wheel of Jamie B. Wolcott‘s colorful, matching illustrations underneath. Such “spinnies,” as they were called in the 19th century, are cousins of the flipbook and predecessors of the crankie. The text of the four tracks comprises imaginative English translations of four poems from Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. The songs were written for performances of the “serialized recasting” of Les Fleurs Du Mal by Chicago’s Theater Oobleck.

Eller sings the first cut, The Joyful Dead (Le Mort Joyeux: for purposes of consistency between languages, we’re gonna stick with title case here, ok?). An alternate translation could be “The Contented Corpse.” Louis Landry’s macabrely twinkling glockenspiel fuels the simmering intro before the track gets going with a haphazardly jaunty bounce.

Eller also contributes The Albatross (L’Albatros), done as one of his signature noir blues numbers over a subtle backdrop of accordion and funeral organ textures behind his animated vocals and stark banjo. The translation is vivid: Eller goes the big picture rather than word-for-word, and he doesn’t bother with a rhyme scheme. The mashup of the final stanza is artful to the extreme, driving home Baudelaire’s equation of the tormented poet to the tortured bird amid the drunken sailors, crippled beneath the weight of its vast wings.

The New Town Drunks’ first track is Always the Same (Semper Eadem), a menacing tango sung with unselfconscious angst by Diane Koistinen over a pouncing beat, Doug Norton’s ominously chromatic Balkan accordion swirling through the mix. This particular translation, voicing Baudelaire’s proto-existentialist anguish over distractions from the inevitable, is a challenging one and takes some poetic license. The band’s other song is Le Vampire. Interestingly, they set Baudelaire’s savage kiss-off of a lyric to upbeat after-the-rain jazz-pop livened with Robo Jones’ trombone. As short albums go, there’s been nothing released this year that compares with this, unfair as that comparison is, considering the source of the lyrics. And the package is an Antiques Road Show type of piece, a limited edition bound to appreciate in value as the years go by.

Eleni Mandell Brings Her Hauntingly Wistful New Album to the Mercury

More elusive than Neko Case but just as revered in noir music circles, Eleni Mandell has enchanted listeners with her distant, memtholated allure and songs that bridge the gap between countrypolitan, torchy saloon blues and jazz since right around the turn of the century. If you were in New York back then, there wasn’t a single cool bar in town, from Max Fish, to O’Connor’s, to Hank’s Saloon, that didn’t have Mandell’s cd’s on the jukebox (remember those things?). Roughly fifteen years later, Mandell’s still putting her individualistic spin on retro sounds from the 50s and 60s. Her latest album, Dark Lights Up – streaming at Spotify – might be her best ever. Overall, Mandell tends to mutes the chill in favor of wary warmth – it’s a record for guardedly optimistic survivors. She’s currently touring it with a New York stop tonight, August 2 at around 8 PM at the Mercury. Cover is $10 and considering how devoted her following is, you might want to get there early.

The band on the album is fantastic. Mandell’s not-so-secret weapon is pianist Nate Walcott, with his glimmering blend of ragtime, slip-key C&W and jazz – to top it off, he also adds jaunty trumpet and flugelhorn. Jake Blanton plays lead acoustic guitar over the tasteful, subtle rhythm section of bassist Ryan Feves and drummer Mike Green. The first song, I’m Old Fashioned, sets the stage, both amusing and in its own unselfconscious way, pretty chilling. See, Mandell is oldschool: she likes to go into the bank and say hit to the teller, writes thank-you notes with pen and paper, reads the newspaper and picks the phone off the receiver when she takes a call. Has the world really changed so much since she released her cult classic debut album, Wishbone, in 1999? Yup.

What Love Can Do, the title track of sorts, has Walcott working gorgeously nocturnal, twinkling lines underneath Mandell’s bittersweet tale of longing and occasional redemption. She raises the angst level on the sad waltz Someone to Love – just think, maybe even Eleni Mandell might have stood in the back of the room some lonely night, hoping that someone would notice her. By contrast, the coolly blithe Cold Snap  puts a bouncy spin on rejection and disappointment, a classic dichotomy in Mandell’s work. It also doesn’t exactly paint her native Los Angeles as a mecca for single people.

The gorgeously simmering China Garden Buffet is a musical Edward Hopper tableau, an uneasily balmy, improbable portrait of an unlikely liaison. Town Called Heartache, with its allusively tricky metrics and clever wordplay, wouldn’t be out of place in the Paula Carino songbook. Old Lady sets elegant Rachelle Garniez-esque wistfulness to a bouncy Beatlesque tune: “I’ll clean up your grandkids and sleep in the back room,” Mandell muses.

Magic Pair of Shoes looks back to pensively late 50s/early 60s Patsy Cline/Owen Bradley countrypolitan balladry. If You Wanna Get Kissed is a coyly hilarious, low-key take on classic honkytonk; likewise, the strolling Baby Don’t Call works a lowlit piano boogie groove. Butter Blonde and Chocolate Brown offers a charming portrait of Mandell’s gradeschool-age daughter and son, artfully casting them as adults. The album’s final cut, Do It Again – an original, not the Steely Dan classic – is its most optimistic. After a grand total of ten albums, this might well be Mandell’s best. You’ll see this one on the best albums of 2015 page here in a few months if we’re all still here.

A Hot Saturday Night Date with Les Chauds Lapins

Saturday night at Barbes the room was packed. Once Les Chauds Lapins began their set, it was literally impossible to get inside to see them playing their pillowy, bittersweet original arrangements of jazzy French pop songs from the 1930s and 40s. Like Les Sans Culottes, Les Chauds Lapins (literally, “The Hot Rabbits,” 30s French slang for “hot to trot”) occupy a significant slice of the demimonde of Americans playing French music. Over the years, hotshot guitarist/singer Meg Reichardt’s French accent has gotten pretty good. Co-leader Kurt Hoffmann distinguishes himself with his meticulously witty new arrangements as well as his agile clarinet playing. But in this band, both musicians play banjo ukes on most of the songs, this time backed by a swoony string section with bass, cello and viola. So these new versions are considerably different from the original piano-and-orchestra or musette-style recordings.

Les Chauds Lapins further distinguish themselves by performing a lot of relatively obscure material, not just the best-known hits by Piaf, Charles Trenet and so forth. The chirpy sound of the two ukes enhances the songs’ droll, deadpan wit: both Hoffman and Reichardt have a thing for bouncy romantic ballads about affairs that start out looking just grand but by the second verse or so have gone straight to hell. And Hoffman had the strings punching and diving and dancing with a verve to match the songs’ lyrics.

They opened with Vous Avez L’Eclat de la Rose (a free download), about a girl who smells like jasmine but may not be so sweet after all. A little later on they did one of their big crowd-pleasers, Le Fils de la Femme Poisson (The Fishwife’s Son): he’s in love with a circus freak, but if that doesn’t work out he’s always got a gig waiting for him playing accordion at a relative’s country whorehouse. Reichardt sang another surreal number from the point of view of a girl who gets trashed beyond belief early in the evening, hooks up in the bushes with some random guy and then starts to lose her buzz, realizing that she might have made a mistake. But, what the hell: “Let’s dance,” she tells him as she straightens her dress. Hoffman’s bubbly, precise clarinet added a cheery dixieland flavor; Reichardt, who’s a mean blues player, showed off her increasingly impressive jazz chops on one of the songs midway through the set. A lot of the material this time out was relatively new, at least for them, one of the most interesting numbers being a vocal version of Django Reinhardt’s Swing 33.

And most everybody listened through all the puns, and the innuendo, and the double entendres. OK, there was one gentrifier boy, or maybe not a boy, whatev, in the back of the room, hell-bent on impressing everyone within earshot with how blithe and fey he was, and he WOULDN’T SHUT UP. But nobody paid him any mind. People like that don’t usually go to Barbes anyway. Les Chauds Lapins will be there again on Valentine’s Day at 8.

Jennifer Niceley’s Birdlight Reveals a Unique, Captivating Southern Voice

Over the last few years, Tennessee songwriter Jennifer Niceley has distilled a distinctive blend of noir torch song, Americana, Nashville gothic, classic southern soul and blues. Her latest album, Birdlight, is streaming at Soundcloud. In recent years, the twang has dropped from Niceley’s voice, replaced by a smoky, artfully nuanced, jazzy delivery. The obvious comparison is Norah Jones, both vocally and songwise, although Niceley has more of an edge and a way with a lyrical turn of phrase. As with her previous releases, the new album features a first-class band: Jon Estes on guitars, keys and bass; Elizabeth Estes on violin; Evan Cobb on tenor sax; Steve Pardo on clarinet and Imer Santiago on trumpet, with Tommy Perkinsen and Dave Racine sharing the drum chair.

The album conjures a classy southern atmosphere: imagine yourself sipping a mint julep in the shade of a cottonwood, the sound of a muted trumpet wafting from across the creek, and you’re in the ballpark. The opening track, Nightbird, sets the stage, a nocturne with Niceley’s gently alluring delivery over a pillowy, hypnotic backdrop livened by samples of what sounds like somebody clumping around in the woods. The second number, Ghosts, is a balmy shuffle lit up by Estes’ deliciously slipsliding Memphis soul riffs, and picks up with a misty orchestral backdrop. .

Niceley sings New Orleans cult legend Bobby Charles’ Must Be in a Good Place Now with a hazy late-summer delivery over a nostalgic horn section and Estes’ keening steel guitar, and a little dixieland break over a verse. The Lynchian Julee Cruise atmospherics in Land I Love, from the swooshes and gentle booms from the drums and the lingering pedal steel, are absolutely gorgeous, Niceley brooding over her pastoral imagery and how that beauty “is never coming back.”

What Wild Is This switches gears for a lushly arranged, bossa-tinged groove; then Niceley switches up again with a gently swaying western swing cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ Hard Times. She keeps the jazzy-tinged atmosphere going with a restrained version of Tom Waits’ You Can Never Hold Back Spring.

But’s Niceley’s originals that are the real draw here, like Goodbye Kiss, a wistful lament that along with Land I Love is the most plaintive, affecting track here: “Unfinished visions keep hanging around like fog in the trees,” Niceley muses. The album’s title track is a brief inetrumental, Niceley’s elegant guitar fingerpicking against washes of violin and accordion. She winds it up with the hypnotic, surreal Strange Times, whose wary psychedelics wouldn’t be out of place on a Jenifer Jackson record. Lean back with a little bourbon and drift off to a place that time forgot with this one: what a great way to stay warm on a gloomy winter evening.

Two First-Rate, Contrasting Tunesmiths

It’s hard to imagine two tunesmiths or performers with less in common than Shannon Pelcher and Jessi Robertson. Each played a tantalizingly short acoustic set Friday night at the American Folk Art Museum and held the crowd rapt for very different reasons, other than that both artists’ songs are purposeful and interesting, and that neither player wastes notes, vocally or guitarwise.

Pelcher went on first. She’s very eclectic, has a great sense of melody and sings in an unaffectedly clear, nuanced soprano. She’s also a strong guitarist and uses a lot of jazz chords, but spaciously: they don’t clutter her songs. And she switches up genres: a warmly swaying waltz, a straight-up oldschool country tune, a jaunty oldtimey swing number, bucolic Americana and sophisticated jazz (which may be her ultimate destination). So choosing to do the show as a duo with a jazz bassist who added a handful of tuneful, serpentine solos made perfect sense. One of the strongest tunes in Pelcher’s set, a terse, syncopated number with a wickedly catchy chorus, is on the compilation album that the museum is selling at their gift shop for a ridiculously cheap five bucks. Pelcher is playing Barbes tomorrow night, June 25 at 7 with the droll, literarily-inspired Bushwick Book Club.

Where Pelcher did a lot of things, Robertson did one thing, delivering a wallop with her full-throated, angst-ridden, soul-inspired alto wail and her harrowing songs. She’ll probably be the first to admit that she’s a band person rather than a solo performer, but she reaffirmed the old aphorism that if a song sounds good solo acoustic, it’ll sound even better with a full band behind it. She opened in a nebulously early 70s Pink Floyd/Britfolk vein with a vamping lament, following with a moody reflection on aging that reminded of Kelli Rae Powell. The longing and ache in Robertson’s voice was relentless; as powerful an instrument as it is, she proved just as subtle and dynamic a singer as Pelcher, at one point disdainfully pushing the mic down and singing the rest of her set without any amplification. Not that she needed it, especially with the museum atrium’s natural reverb.

Explaining that she had a new album in the can, she told the crowd that her producer had heard her playing a brand-new song and insisted that she go back in the studio, a smart move: with its dark blues and gospel echoes, it turned out to be a characteristicaly potent portrait of pain and alienation. The characters in Robertson’s narratives deal with a lot of that, especially the girl who cuts herself in You Don’t Want to Taste My Heart, from her 2011 album Small Town Girls, arguably the high point of the show. And when she sang “You’re gonna burn, my love, ” over and over again over a haunting minor-key vamp as the last song wound out, there was no doubt she meant it. Robertson is playing LIC Bar in Long Island City at 1:30 on June 28 on an excellent multi-songwriter bill that also features Lara Ewen, the irrepressible impresario and soaring Americana singer who runs the museum’s consistently good Friday night concert series.


Shana Tucker Brings Her Eclectic Cello Soul Sound to Brooklyn

Shana Tucker covers the much of the same ground from behind the cello that Esperanza Spalding does from behind the bass. Tucker distinguishes herself with calmly resolute, eclectic vocals and similarly eclectic songwriting that span the worlds of jazz, soul music and pensively lyrical chamber pop. She brings to mind the similarly diverse, tuneful vocal stylings of fellow cellist Marika Hughes with her group Bottom Heavy. Tucker and her band make a stop in Brooklyn on Jan 19 at 8:30 PM at Shapeshifter Lab in Gowanus; cover is $15.

Her latest album Shine is streaming all the way through at her site. Songs about “saving the children” are usually horrible – even Gil Scott-Heron couldn’t come up with a decent one. But Tucker’s Precious Ones does double duty as a parable for both the environment and the younger generation, with brooding sostenuto cello and tersely resonant piano over a brushed shuffle beat. The next track on the album, Fast Lane, is an acoustic guitar song, the verse reaching toward country, the chorus shifting abruptly toward soul music, Tucker’s voice shifting nimbly between each idiom. Bow Out Gracefully sways along with flamenco tinges, while the sardonically moody, bluesy waltz Repeat Again is bitingly funny. “Surprise surprise surprise, it’s not the ‘new yes,’ it really means no,” Tucker explains exasperatedly.

No Get-Back blends cello chords, echoey Rhodes piano and wah funk guitar into a similarly biting, insistent soul tune, while Simplicity sets gospel-tinged piano over a matter-of-fact, trip-hop tinged groove. Look Me in the Eye has a waltzing pulse and a wry Star Trek reference; the album winds up with the title track, a lushly attractive chamber pop ballad. The other tracks include November, which builds from a suspensefully jazzy intro into brisk Anita Baker-esque jazz-pop, and Just Go, mixing jazz sophistication, gritty oldschool soul and 90s-style trip-hop.

Lake Street Dive Look Back to the Future of Pop and Soul Music at Madison Square Park

Lake Street Dive are the future of pop music. The crowd at Madison Square Park Wednesday night reflected the Boston four-piece band’s popularity: lots of couples on the lawn. Frontwoman Rachael Price’s growly, feline MRAOOOWR delivery over the band’s eclectically jaunty bounce built a sulty but boisterous wee-hours atmosphere. There are plenty of blue-eyed soul women out there with voices as good as Price’s, but what makes her special is that she doesn’t overdo it: she could be an American Idol type if she wanted, but she knows the value of holding back and works it. And while lyrics are not this band’s main focus – like most oldtime soul and swing bands, they ponder the trials and tribulations of romance – the band has a coy sense of humor and isn’t afraid to use it without getting cheesy.

Likewise the rest of the musicians. Drummer Mike Calabrese – who’s also a capable songwriter, as the band reminded throughout their set – adds nimble accents in tandem with the bass so that when guitarist Mike Olson puts down his guitar and switches to trumpet, there’s no appreciable sonic drop-off. Olson’s Strat was amped up more than usual on the outdoor stage, a blast of distortion and treble in contrast to the more subtle timbres he uses in a small club milieu, which is where the band is best appreciated. Their not-so-secret weapon and main soloist is bassist Bridget Kearney. Like the rest of the band, she comes from a jazz background, and she is the rare bass player who you not only want to hear solo: you end up wanting to hear her solo more! She did that several times, showing off an effortless command of soul, rockabilly and jazz chops and didn’t waste a note, burning through chords to cap off one big crescendo, another time wailing down the scale with an impish These Boots Are Made for Walking smirk.

The set list mixed in a lot of new material, heavy on the oldschool soul. Again, what distinguishes Lake Street Dive from the legions of retro 70s white soul-influenced bands out there is that they hang back in the groove. For them, retro means the 60s all the way back to the 30s or even a decade earlier on occasion, but with rock energy. Olson’s guitar dipped and bent notes over the casually expert sway of the rhythm section as Price purred and pulled on and off her notes with elegance and grace. There wasn’t any gratuitous Clapton-style guitar soloing (Olson took a grand total of one, and it was short and sweet), no blackfacing the vocals a la Dave Matthews or whoever happens to be on American Idol this week, no flatulent funkdaddy fingersnapping bass, just a solid low end that would have benefited from a fatter sound mix. Ask yourself: when’s the last time you found yourself wanting to hear more from the bass player? That’s this band’s genius, in that their music is accessible and attractive but not the least bit stupid. Bands like this used to get commercial radio airplay: it’s a good bet that when the corporate radio monopolies are broken up (and they will be, in your lifetime: change is gonna come, folks, and we’re all going to be part of it), everybody in the laundromat will be able to smile and hum along to a Lake Street Dive song or two. Most recently, they’ve made the big room at the Rockwood their usual stop during trips to New York: watch this space

Charming French Tropicalia from Banda Magda

Truth in advertising: the cd cover for Banda Magda’s new album Amour, T’es La? is pink and festooned with palm leaves and tropical fruit. Although what this group plays is not dark – it’s bouncy, upbeat, irrepressibly fun music – it is quintessentially New York and cosmopolitan to the extreme. Frontwoman/accordionist Magda Gianikou writes and sings in French, although her ancestry is Greek. Her core band includes vibraphonist Mika Mimura, guitarist Nacho Hernandez, bassist Petros Klampanis and percussionist Marcelo Woloski. The rest of the players on the album – among them drummer Jordan Perlson, cellist Jody Redhage and violist Ljova Zhurbin – represent this city’s A-list jazz and classical music scenes. Gianikou’s quirky, clever arrangements also include parts for brass, shamisen, hammered dulcimer and concert harp. It’s a party in a box.

The title track – meaning “You There, Love?”  – sets the tone, Gianikou’s chirpy vocals (and solidily good French accent) soaring over bouncy bossa pop. The second track, Asteroide is a sassy, tiptoeing swing tune, Gianikou cajoling a guy to come populate her empty planet. Caramel works a latin disco groove, but in an organic way with lush strings and breathy, come-hither vocals (and a chorus that at first listen sounds like “cassoulet”).

The band brings in echoey Rhodes piano with the lush strings on Ce Soir (Tonight), followed by the jaunty boudoir pop anthem Couches-Toi (Lie Down), building to an unexpectedly lavish waltz midway through. Juin (June) sets a slightly delirious, slightly Indian-tinged seaside resort tableau, while Fond de la Mer (Bottom of the Sea) evokes Jenifer Jackson at her balmiest and most psychedelic.

La Japonaise is an Asian-tinged, drolly festive tale about Mimura’s adventures playing a Montreal jazz bar, dodging seductive men and losing her mallets in the street. Mouche (The Fly) is funkier – she gets in your hair, she may end up in your drink and she wants your body. The catchiest song here is Oublies-La (Forget Her), with its barrage of la-la’s, salsa piano and soaring flute. The album winds up with the dreamy but bouncy Petite Maline (which translates roughly as Little Devil or Little Troublemaker), Gianikou insisting she’s not a bad girl even though she ripped a hole in the roof so she could look up into the sky and see all the bright colors. Gianikou plays the Lincoln Center plaza for free at 7 PM on July 26; later on that night on the stage out back in Damrosch Park, she’ll sing alongside headliners the Kronos Quartet. Banda Magda are at Prospect Park bandshell at 7:30 PM on August 3, opening for salsa jazz legend Eddie Palmieri.

Grace Kelly’s Live Album: Norah Jones for Smart People

Ever try to elevate peoples’ game, listeningwise? You have to choose your moments. Usually this kind of persuasion works best on older people who only know the most popular, poppiest artists in a particular style. You like that Adele song? Just wait til you hear Sharon Jones. What’s that, the Eagles’ Greatest Hits? Um…you might like Mumford & Sons. A small step for humankind; a quantum leap for your friend.

Likewise, if Norah Jones works for you in theory but not in practice, you’ll love Grace Kelly. Like Jones when she first got started, a lot of what Kelly is doing lately is a more lively take on countrypolitan, a Nashville sound that was popular in the late 50s and 60s. Producer Owen Bradley and others would take standard-issue country songs, add lush strings and often elements of jazz. Willie Nelson got his start that way; Patsy Cline and Skeeter Davis achieved crossover success with songs like Crazy and The End of the World. Kelly comes to this music from the opposite direction. A saxophonist by trade, she’s a protegee of bop jazz legend Phil Woods, and she also sings.

On her new album Live at Scullers, there’s some straight-up jazz – an animated, swinging take on the Jerome Kern standard The Way You Look Tonight, and an original, Autumn Song, which moves gracefully from a lush intro to an exuberant romp featuring the whole band. On the funk side, the concert ends with a sprawling, goodnatured cover of Summertime that brings to mind  Brooklyn psychedelic funkmeisters Otis. In between is the vocal stuff and most of it is very good.

The show opens with Please Don’t Box Me In, an elegant, artsy bossa pop tune that Kelly uses to air out her upper register, vocalwise, and follows later on with a carefree but terse alto sax solo. The arrangements here are a lot closer to jazz than country: the big swells can be lush, but more often than not the playing is spare and smart…like the way Pete McCann gently tremolopicks his guitar chords and then smacks them right on the beat as the song winds out. Trumpeter Jason Palmer keeps the energy high; bassist Zach Brown bows a couple of wry country fiddle solos, cellist Eric Law taking over the basslines when he does that, drummer Mark Walker hanging back with a steady purist groove.

Kelly wrote the lyrics to the mutedly frustrated, bouncily syncopated country tune Eggshells in a hotel room in Germany and the music on the plane home to Boston. She leads the band back into bossa-tinged jazz-funk on Night Time Star, then goes into boudoir country-bluesy territory with the nonchalantly seductive Ready, Set, Stay. The longest track here is the funky instrumental Searching for Peace, lit up by high-energy solos from Palmer and then Kelly on soprano sax. The band’s cool, low-key approach on the country waltz Kiss Away Your Tears matches the tenderness of the lyrics; then they pick up the pace with a ukulele tune.

Kelly is relatively young (early 20s), and most of her band, other than the guys who serve as Paquito D’Rivera’s rhythm section, seem around that age as well, so there are some rookie mistakes. A numbing bagpipe-metal guitar solo destroys the coy mood on one of the country songs – and why they’d want to have somebody whistling off-key where Kelly could have played the tune on soprano and nailed it is anybody’s guess. But that’s nitpicking. Kelly is smart, writes her own songs and is somebody to keep your eye on – and the album makes a great nudge gift for someone you know who would embrace good music if they just had the time or the energy to go looking for it. That’s where you come in.