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Karen Souza

Velvet Vault

Review by Gary Hill

The cover might give you the impression that Karen Souza is a jazz torch singer. While some of the music here is definitely jazz, not all of it is. That said, this album does utilize the jazz tradition of creating covers of various pop songs by re-thinking the arrangements. Whatever you call this music, though, it's a very solid set of songs. This is quite effective and very pretty. I like it a lot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Fall in Love Too Easily
The blues jazz elements that create the backdrop for this number are classic. The arrangement is just piano and voice at first. The jazz trio type stylings join after a time. It feels like something that would have been at home in a jazz club in the 1930s or 1940s. This is a slow, balladic cut that is packed with class. The horn solo later in the track is a nice touch.
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
With an acoustic guitar backdrop, this is a very different arrangement of the classic Elton John tune. Souza's voice delivers an interesting, understated kind of performance. The arrangement is odd at first, but really grows into something so cool as other instruments join. Mind you, no one will ever confuse this with the original, but it's such a great change. The chorus gets rather soaring and powerful.
I'm Beginning to See the Light
This is more of a pure jazz treatment that's a lot of fun. This is another bit of class on a disc that's full of it.
Valerie
I love this one, too. It has that same folk rock meets jazz sound. It's not any kind of big change, but instead just another solid version of the general concept.
I'm Not in Love
Here Souza covers the classic 10cc song. Like the Elton John tune, this is another unique and effective arrangement. This is, perhaps, closer to the original than that one was. I like this number a lot. In fact, perhaps I like it almost as much as I like the original.
You Got That Something
Back into more of a pure jazz style, this one is a duet between Souza and a gentleman named "Toku." The horn solo is a great touch.
In Between Days
There is a dreamy kind of mellow vibe on this cut. This has a lot of jazz in the mix, but there is a lot more here, too. It definitely is a big change from the original Cure version.
In the Blink of an Eye

I like the smooth jazz vibe of this cut. The number has almost a folk prog element at times. This is such a pretty arrangement and cut.

Walk on the Wild Side
This is a very unexpected cut. Just the thought of including this Lou Reed tune is a surprise. Then when you factor in this fast paced jazz drenched rendition, it's a full change of pace. I like this a lot. It's fun and has some great horn work.
Angel Eyes
A piano based number, this has a stripped back and particularly tasty arrangement. It works so well with that old jazz club vibe.
Kids
Another piano and voice arrangement is what we have here (although there is a little bit more than that here, it's more icing on the cake than real substance). However, this isn't a jazz kind of thing. It's more artsy. I'm actually reminded of Tori Amos just a bit at times here. Overall, this is a very pretty and powerful piece of music. It's one of the best cuts here, making it an excellent choice to close the album.
 
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