Father George Kennard, a Jesuit priest and philosophy instructor, once said, "To swing is to affirm." If that's so, then jazz bassist/vocalist/arranger Kristin Korb's album, Where You'll Find Me, is a series of affirmations: positive, joyful, upbeat. There is no angst here; even the ballads swing. This is music firmly rooted in the mid-20th-century traditional jazz of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz. With veteran West-Coast drummer Jeff Hamilton and pianist Mike Wofford (who frequently accompanied both Fitzgerald and Vaughn), Korb plays and scats her way through imaginative arrangements of standards and originals.
Her voice is light, lithe, and agile. She has a remarkable command of technique and a wide palette of vocal colors: a vibrato-less tone reminiscent of Flora Purim; a bright, slightly nasal resonance that brings to mind Diane Schuur; a glottal purr like that used so effectively by Diana Krall. At the other end of the of frequency spectrum is her bass playing, which is solid and swinging in the tradition of the late great Ray Brown, with whom she studied and recorded her first album, Introducing Kristin Korb.
Korb, in town for the Texas Orchestra Directors Association convention, is a respected educator and jazz clinician. She recently resigned as Director of Jazz Studies at Central Washington University to move to Los Angeles and focus on her writing and performance career. On Saturday, August 3, she'll perform with Small World and trombonist Ron Wilkins at the Boardwalk Bistro.
I reached Korb by phone three days after her arrival in L.A. It was 10 a.m., California time, and she was already practicing.
Bett Butler: How does the L.A. jazz scene compare to San Diego, where you studied and performed in the '90s?
Kristin Korb: L.A. is so much bigger than San Diego ... more opportunities, but I haven't been around long enough to get a real sense of it. It was overwhelming to see how many musicians attended Ray Brown's funeral last week.
BB: Tell me about your experience with him.
KK: He changed my life. I was excited just to get a lesson with him, and then it turned into the recording. He validated my abilities at a time when I had a lot of doubt. He also kicked my rear and showed me the things I needed to know to be a better musician.
BB: I imagine your singing style reminded him of his former spouse, Ella Fitzgerald, with whom he worked for many years.
KK: I think he saw my commitment to the music and desire to deepen my understanding. If I reminded him of Ella, he never told me. I love Ella for her sense of joy in making music. I can't listen to her without smiling.
BB: I hear that same sense of joy in your own album. It seems to honestly reflect your personality.
KK: I think it is our responsibility as musicians to be sincere in our music making.
BB: You have a great swing feel in both singing and playing. How would you define "swing"?
KK: If something is swinging, it makes my foot tap and my head bob. Sometimes the "swing" is blatant, but sometimes it's a little more subtle. I'm not sure how I would explain it. I try to play in time, listen to everyone, and play my best notes to support the band.
BB: What draws you to a particular song?
KK: I like a good melody, an interesting story, and something I can relate to in my own life. Different songs resonate with me at different times in my life. Sometimes I hear a recording, and it just sounds like that tune would be fun to play.
BB: What's your main ax?
KK: A Morelli. I call him the older man. He's about 90 years old.
BB: Upright bass is a very physical instrument and requires a lot of stamina. How do you cope with the physical demands?
KK: I love the physicality of the bass. On the road, the physical demands are greater in the airports (transporting the flight case) than in the concerts. I'm in a yoga thing right now. It is helping my posture and keeping me from getting too stiff from sitting on airplanes. It also has a great calming effect. I also like running and weight lifting.
BB: Does your Morelli get his own seat on the plane?
KK: No, I have a flight case for him. It saves a lot of hassle. I tried putting him in the overhead bin once, but it upset the flight attendant.
KRISTIN KORB WITH RON WILKINS AND SMALL WORLD
7:30pm, Saturday, August 3, Free
Boardwalk Bistro, 4011 Broadway