Charleston for You
While the title suggests a nostalgic musical voyage, and vocalist Lisa Kirchner’s smoky, tremulous style seems distinctly retro, these dozen tracks are assembled from seven different sessions from the late ’90s. Together they shape an intriguing potpourri, featuring a dozen musicians Kirchner frequently collaborated with over the years—bassist Lonnie Plaxico, pianist James Weidman, drummer Adam Cruz and guitarist Ron Jackson among them—in various configurations. The playlist meanders all over the map, with four Kirchner originals, a trio of pieces co-written by Kirchner with pianist Galt MacDermot, and covers of tunes from such disparate sources as the Gershwins, Janis Ian, Dr. John and French composer Michel Emer.
Charleston for You also covers a lot of physical miles. Pre-Katrina New Orleans is visited twice, with Dr. John’s spooky tale of voodoo queen “Marie Laveau” and Kirchner and MacDermot’s easy-flowing “Blue By the River (Port of New Orleans).” Kirchner’s lovely, introspective “Riverside” wistfully travels between Manhattan and San Francisco, while the edgy “Lights of L.A.” paints an urgently sinister portrait of Tinseltown. Emer’s “L’accordéoniste,” performed in French, recalls Piaf-era Paris, and the closing blend of Caetano Veloso’s velvety “Coracão Vagabundo” and Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes’ vibrant “Berimbau,” both presented in Portuguese, conjures a quiet Rio evening suddenly enlivened by Carnaval. It’s an awful lot to absorb in one sitting, but well worth the far-flung trip.