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Kelley Johnson: Music Is the Magic

Kelley Johnson’s new album features her own arrangements, for the most part. Among the backup players are her husband, John Hansen, an in-demand pianist-arranger. Johnson teaches vocal technique at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. She’s able to project smooth-to-robust tones from her deceptively petite frame.

“Tea for Two” begins with a rubato verse, followed by a double-time chorus, quickly followed by triple-time choruses, and her enunciation is flawless at warp speed. “The Tender Trap” finds Johnson lilting between 3/4 and 4/4, followed by a memorable Hansen solo. A clever Depression-era medley joins “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” with “God Bless the Child,” and Johnson exudes great feeling over pianist Geoffrey Keezer’s instinctive comping. “Old Devil Moon” induces outstanding solo work from trumpeter and producer Brian Lynch, and Johnson teasingly lags behind the beat, adding italics on her second turnaround phrase “to your razzle-dazzle.” “Without a Song” reveals her wide range plus a great alto solo by Steve Wilson.

The centerpiece of the album is the title track, a witty vent by Johnson. It features more than eight minutes of spoken-word and song. Johnson gets socially conscious, but her delightful patter never bores.

Originally Published