Vocalists coming onto the jazz scene often dip into
the well of the American Songbook, remaking classics that have been
remade ad infinitum. One thing that sets this newcomer apart from that
newcomer is the presentation. Introducing Katie Thiroux (BassKat
Records, 2015) makes a distinction in that Thiroux isn’t just a vocalist
fronting a band of jazz musicians. She is a musician.
Thiroux plays bass and sings. Her accompanists are Roger Neumann, tenor
saxophone; Graham Dechter, guitar; and Matt Witek, drums.
The first track is a take on the Rogers and Hart composition, “There’s a
Small Hotel.” Thiroux charms as she revisits the classic. Dechter is
subtle underneath but clearly in the moment. He gets to stretch out a
bit during the instrumental break. The sax sits this one out.
Thiroux’s bass skills are more evident during “Don’t Be on the Outside.”
While she sings with sass, she gets that slap thing going during key
phrases. Dechter and Neumann take turns during the break. Meanwhile,
Neumann does some interesting thing in the background. Thiroux throws in
a playful scat toward the end, with guitar and sax complementing her
Not all of the remakes are typical American Songbook selections. While
they are part of that landscape, there are a few that haven’t been
hundreds of artists. Perhaps you can say they are lesser-known choices,
such as “Wives and Lovers,” “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)”
and “Shiny Stockings.” Thiroux also wrote three instrumentals for the
project: “Ray’s Kicks,” named for a stylish pair of shoes previously
owned by bassist Ray Brown and given to Thiroux; “Rodebird,” which is
inspired jointly by Earl “Fatha” Hines’ “Rosetta” and Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird
Suite”; and “Can’t We Just Pretend?”
Studying both bass and voice since her pre-teenage years, Thiroux
studied at the Berklee College of Music, where she performed with
Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby, Dr. Billy Taylor, Terri Lyne Carrington
and others. In 2013, after receiving her master’s degree in Jazz Studies
from California State University at Long Beach, she formed the quartet
present on this release.
The combination of song choice, Thiroux’s vocal style and dexterity on
the bass, and a well-groomed quartet that works well as a unit ensure
that Introducing Katie Thiroux isn’t trite. The music is fresh
and engaging throughout.