Apr 17, 2013
If it can be said that anyone has music in her D.N.A., that person would be Lisa Kirchner. The daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning classical composer Leon Kirchner and coloratura soprano Gertrude Schoenberg, Lisa was raised in a home that appreciated Bach as much as Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington as much as Mozart. Ms. Kirchner made the most of that eclectic musical upbringing, successfully working on the New York stage, performing as a dancer, harmonizing with singers like Judy Collins, and leading her own jazz group.
With the release of Umbrellas in Mint, she also puts her songwriting skills to the forefront. An album of all original material, Umbrellas in Mint is full of story-songs that might be taken from a progressive Broadway show, the melodies strong and the lyrics full of emotion. Ms. Kirchner sings in a way that draws the listener in, making us hang on her phrasing to see where the story – or the musical composition – will go next. While so many jazz singers are content to recycle the Great American Song Book, she is staking out new ground.
Lisa has wisely surrounded herself with a solid jazz band. Pianist Xavier Davis has recorded with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Christian McBride, Stefon Harris and Jimmy Greene, and most recently toured with Jeremy Pelt. His touch is in tune with Ms. Kirchner’s vocal approach, and he leads the band without overplaying or stepping on some of the subtleties provided by sax player Sherman Irby, guitarist Ron Jackson, bassist Vincente Archer, accordianist Bill Schimmel and drummer Willie Jones III.
I spoke with Lisa as she finishing off the new CD’s promotional campaign, and we talked about her childhood, how she came to be a singer, and the back-stories on a number of her songs. Click here to listen to Podcast 342, which features her original songs including:
Lisa Kirchner – Title Track from Charleston for You. Recorded in the living room of keyboard player Marc Berman in the 1990's, Lisa overdubbed and polished the tune for release last year. Not one to let her art be, she has re-recorded it as “Southern Starlight (Charleston for You)” on the new CD.
Lisa Kirchner – “Tim” and Title Track from Umbrellas in Mint. Two strong story-songs that show not only her craft as a composer but as a singer as well. She characterizes the first song as a sort of a “theatrical ‘Mr. Bojangles’, while the latter has the feel of overheard conversations in a Paris café.