Aug 2, 2021
Kari Kikland’s debut album, Wild is the Wind, arranged and produced by four-time Grammy® nominee, Shelly Berg, is a collection of contemporary songs and jazz standards. Performers include: Dean Parks, Kevin Axt, Gregg Field, Shelly Berg, percussionist Brian Kilgore, three-time Grammy winner John Daversa, and two-time Grammy winner Roy Hargrove. The project was engineered and mixed by Don Murray and mastered by Paul Blakemore.
“Live music is not unlike flying trapeze; one must be confident, fully engaged, and ideally, joyful”, says vocalist and former co-owner of Emerald City Trapeze Arts, Kari Kirkland. After eight years in Seattle working as a professional circus artist, she left the dazzle of the Big Top and the death-defying practice behind to take center stage as a full-time musician in Southern California.
Kari’s debut album, Wild is the Wind, is a collection of contemporary songs and jazz standards that have more in common than one might notice at first glance. She explains, “The majority of tracks are about unrequited or forbidden love. To me, this kind of love is rooted in pain. It’s easy to access the idea of pain, but more difficult to authentically express it. Shelly encouraged me to really get inside the lyrics of each song, and bring the stories to life”. Kari’s deep admiration of Nancy Wilson, Eva Cassidy, and Julie London are reflected both in her tone and phrasing on the album. Berg’s feelings about his decision to work with Kari speak to the talents of this newcomer to the jazz scene. “Kari’s voice and style are uniquely ‘her,’” he says. “There is a depth of truth and heart in her singing that is very, very compelling. I’m proud and blessed to have done this project with her.”
The Canadian-born daughter of two working musicians from the USA, Kari’s childhood was spent crisscrossing North America by car. She played in various pop, rock, cabaret, and jazz groups through the early 2000’s in Canada and the US before moving to Europe in 2003 where she spent 4 years writing, recording, and performing. While working in Seattle as a private chef by day, and performing music at night, Kari signed up for a flying trapeze class. There, she met her husband, Gary, in midair; he owned a circus school and performance venue in downtown Seattle. They married a year to the day later. Working together, they produced large-scale theatrical circus shows, but her musical career took a back seat until Gary stepped in.
Gary contacted Shelly Berg to see if he would consider working on a demo recording with Kari. After a cinematic, midnight hang at Shelly’s house in Florida, he agreed to arrange and produce a six-song EP. Berg pulled together Phil Ramone’s rhythm section and booked United Recording in Los Angeles. With Dean Parks (guitar), Kevin Axt (bass), Gregg Field (drums), and Shelly himself on the piano, the EP was recorded over two days. The energy was so powerful in that session, they decided to expand the EP into a full album.
Adding even more sparkle to the album are acclaimed percussionist Brian Kilgore, John Daversa and Roy Hargrove. The project was engineered and mixed by Don Murray in LA and mastered by Paul Blakemore in Nashville.
While the presence of jazz greats such as Berg and Hargrove establish Wild is the Wind as a jazz vocal album, the selection of songs cross musical boundaries, ranging from Adult Contemporary, Pop, and Blues, with moments of Latin and Cabaret. Kari’s voice is sultry and sensual, gently finding its place among the at-times ethereal, at times straight-ahead swinging arrangements.
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