As vocalists go, Kristy is surely one of a rare breed - a singer who inhabits, as if by magic, the nooks and crannies of each and every moment of the song. A singer, who with ever so subtle twists of diction and changes in breath, executes such a remarkable command of melody that she can hold and bend its line to tell every new story in a breathtaking way. In doing so, she joins only an elite few who can tell simple tales in song with such melodic simplicity, intensity and utter mesmerism that the singer becomes the song!
Kristy was surrounded by music from a very early age. As the daughter of Toronto’s renowned producer, Peter Cardinali, she grew up swathed in the music that filled her home, thanks to the extremely diverse projects that her father was immersed in. It seemed natural, therefore for her to pursue a life of music and in 2000 she graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from York University, where she studied jazz history, theory and vocal performance as well as songwriting. During her time there, Kristy was a part of the magnificent a capella band, Wibijazzin', a seminal group of singers directed by Kevin Fox, who then went on to form Canada's leading vocal group, Cadence. Kristy is also an accomplished songwriter who recently contributed the memorable, "In Dreams" to Vito Rezza's album, Drums of Avila.
But it is as a singer that Kristy excels on "My Romance", her remarkable debut album on Alma Records. With soft intensity, she is able to create a rich palette of shades and subtle hues as she tells story after story. The title song is filled with unbridled longing as Kristy speaks poetically of the ultimate love. Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, k.d. Lang) on slide guitar and Montreux Jazz Festival piano competition winner and rising jazz star Robi Botos on piano create a wide canvas as Kristy paints her romance in beautiful daubs of sonic colour. On "It Could Happen to You”, Kristy and the venerable Don Thompson shape the song with the bassist playing counterpoint to Kristy’s melodic line that skips through the song as Botos glides across the keyboard with the lightest touch. The story of romance continues on "In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning", an intimate vocal and piano duet.
The Lennon-McCartney classic, "Blackbird" is a remarkable contrast to several versions performed by jazz musicians: Kristy’s version is almost devotional as it flutters in a superb line of flight, with Breit, Botos and this time the cello of Matt Brubeck (son of the great Dave Brubeck) as well. The interpretation of standards continues with Rogers and Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind” that swells with emotion as Kristy's vocals are complemented by the unmistakable trumpet of jazz icon Guido Basso.
Perhaps the most playful moments on the record may be heard on "A Sleepin' Bee" as Kristy leads the a capella voice choir of Cadence through the beautiful melody and story of the song. She follows this with a haunting rendition Johnny Mercer's beloved "I Remember You”. And then there is the exquisite "Taking A Chance On Love”, with Robi Botos and Matt Brubeck locking in on some masterful interplay throughout. On "You Don't Know Me", a melancholy blues made famous by Ray Charles, Kevin Breit displays his virtuosity on dobro in support of this heartwarming vocal performance. "Just One Of Those Things” features a bopping Don Thompson, while "Teach Me Tonight" is a tour de force for both Kristy and her brilliant accompanist, Guido Basso.
The album concludes with a version of "Bye Bye Blackbird" rich in subtle harmony. In twelve wonderfully produced tracks Kristy inhabits the songs with sure-footedness… as if she were born to tell stories through song, and with such accuracy that the singer becomes the song itself.
This is a debut album, but it appears that its star is so sure of herself and nails the narrative with such delicacy and precision that one cannot help but marvel at the maturity and deftness of touch with which the heart and soul of the song is brought to life.
My Romance marks the arrival of a bright new star in vocal jazz, and heralds the return to the art of telling a story through the simple beauty of the melody.