May 30, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Kristen Shiner McGuire is a drummer, jazz singer, solo marimbist, orchestral timpanist and contemporary chamber musician.
No wonder she’s so multi-talented. Kristen’s got great genes.
Her mom was a dancer-choreographer who appeared in Broadway shows such as “Bloomer Girl” as well as working in movies and television. Her dad, Raymond Shiner, performed in Broadway pit bands. He was also a member of the inventive Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. He played eight different woodwinds!
Ray went on to teach music at SUNY Potsdam and later became founding director of the CNY Jazz Orchestra, which remains one of the Salt City’s swinging-est ensembles nearly 13 years after Shiner’s death in December 1999.
Kristen Shiner McGuire is the coordinator of percussion studies at Nazareth College in Rochester and often performs with combos such as Jon Seiger’s All-Stars, a trad-jazz group, and her own all-female choral group, Elle.
Now in her 50s, Shiner McGuire only recently released her debut disc, “Kristen sings and plays and rings,” a collection of 11 tracks recorded at The Studios at Linden Oaks in Rochester. As the title suggests, the recordings showcase the artist’s many talents, from vocals to vibraphone, from trap set to triangle.
Kristen sees this disc as a tribute to her late father. “Many of these tracks were among his most-often-played tunes in our home,” she wrote on the disc’s liner notes.
In fact the recording opens with Rodgers & Hart’s “Little Girl Blue,” one song Ray would play regularly on piano adding his favorite bass lines and harmonies. Kristen’s version of “When Sunny Gets Blue” was inspired by one of Ray’s students at SUNY Potsdam, a singer named Renee Fleming.
“My father would bring home reel-to-reel tapes of his College Jazz Ensemble,” Kristen wrote. “I still remember Renee’s version of this song.” Kristen’s sultry, sophisticated vocal underscores the “blue”” in the Nat Cole composition, and her singing receives solid underpinning by Paul Smoker’s trumpet which also delivers a relaxed but potent solo. The track climaxes on a gorgeous final note as Kristen’s voice slides seamlessly into the stratosphere.
My favorite track is “Save the Bones for Henry Jones,” a tune about food by New Orleans banjoman Danny Barker and Vernon Lee. Kristen’s carefree treatment appetizes and satisfies all at once, and for dessert she serves up a funny spoken-word finale.
The saucy syncopation of Jobim’s “Waters of March” is accentuated by Kristen’s marimba and triangle playing. She has fun singing the litany of things (“a stick, a stone, a sliver of glass”) carried into the city by the March rains, and she takes pleasure in “the promise of spring… the promise of life, the joy in your heart.”
That Brazilian tone poem is followed by a bright and upbeat vibraphone version of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” Kristen states the familiar melody straightforwardly on the vibes, and when she hits the bridge, we’re off and running. Her husband, composer David McGuire, plays piano on “Night and Day” and appears again on Chick Corea’s “What Game Shall We Play Tonight?”
Kristen plays drums with her hands to kick off Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia,” which features trumpeter Paul Smoker in fine form before Kristen herself turns in a tasty multi-textured trap set solo.
The Count Basie Band was Ray’s favorite, and Kristen sings two tunes identified with the cats from Kansas City. “Girl Talk” is a lilting look at loquacious ladies pumped up by Paul Hofmann’s piano, and “Shiny Stockings” pays homage to the great Ella Fitzgerald with a note-for-note recreation of her scat solo.
Rodgers & Hart’s “Lover” lets Smoker improvise with verve on his horn answered by Hofmann’s pulsating piano and a cymbal-sweetened drum interlude. Bassist Dave Arenius pushes the entire disc forward with his propulsive yet understated bass lines.
“What Game Shall We Play Tonight?” spotlights Kristen’s good vibes delightfully dueting with her keyboardist husband. The disc concludes with “And So it Goes,” a reverential ballad by Billy Joel benefiting from Kristen’s unadorned vocal approach.
All in all, this entertaining yet improv-laden set would surely make Ray Shiner plenty proud of his little girl.