Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Karen Oberlin/Sean Harkness: A Wish

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

One of Manhattan’s most accomplished cabaret and off-Broadway performers, Karen Oberlin blends the supper-club sass of Ann Hampton Callaway with the pop purity of Doris Day. She has released three previous discs and made guest appearances on several multi-artist projects. Never, however, has Oberlin sounded as nakedly beautiful as in this spare, mellow pairing with guitarist Sean Harkness, her tendency toward theatrical brassiness at last tempered.

Sturdy standards and Broadway ballads-“I’ll String Along With You,” “My One and Only Love,” “Poor You,” “Remind Me,” Funny Girl‘s pensive “The Kind of Man a Woman Needs”-form the album’s backbone, all winningly cashmere-wrapped. More interesting, though, are the less obvious choices, including gently astute renderings of Paul Simon’s “Train in the Distance,” Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine” (more affecting than Sir Paul’s own version) and an exceptional pair of Fred Hersch compositions: the tender title track, co-written with Norma Winstone, and the delightful “Do You Think This Happens Every Day?,” featuring lyrics by Oberlin’s husband, author and critic David Hajdu. Only once across these dozen tracks does she falter, failing to capture the delicate heart of Joni Mitchell’s “Love” with her overly mannered reading.

Originally Published