Jonathan Karrant: LIVE

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Jonathan Karrant


December 18, 2018

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

This live album is culled from evergreens from the American Songbook spanning the decades. It supports Jonathan Karrant’s status as his career keeps moving in the right direction. LIVE is easy listening in the best sense. Karrant blends sophisticated and imaginative updates of familiar pop standards (George Michael’s “Kissing a Fool”) and jazz-fueled rarities (the Dianne Reeves/Terreon Gully/Poeter Martin “Cold”) in this live recording of his show at The Smith Center in Las Vegas. As a regular in west coast clubs, his good looks are sharp enough for a boy band, but his musical barometer is in the vein of crooners from another era. He sings in the orbits of a bluesy Darin and early Sinatra on moody songs and period gems like “Love for Sale” (Cole Porter) and “As Long As I Live” (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler). He brings a natural and refreshing spin to his versatile baritone that digs deep without being melodramatic or self-indulgent.

A Las Vegas regular who has mastered several jazz genres, including blues and swing, Karrant re-imagines Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” turning it into a driving torch song that smolders. With the help of talented guest singer Chadwick Johnson (another Vegas fixture), the song becomes gritty and polarizing in its structure thanks to Jason Corpuz’s brilliant arrangement. Karrant has the chops for such material with just enough heart-rendering drama to make it soulful. Such is the mark of great jazz singing. It’s also a reason for him to get more attention. This cut is only one highlight on an album filled with mellow gems.

The set opener, a bouncy “Almost Like Being in Love” (Lerner and Loewe), segues into a warm reading of the Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer beauty “Charade,” shich marks another highlight. “Feelin’ Good” (Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse) has been a hit for some great artists over the decades, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Nina Simone, and Newley himself. It’s mostly overlooked by singers today, but it would be hard to find a more penetrating update of this great song. A delicate start to “Nature Boy” (Eden Ahbez) picks up languidly with a jazz-driven beat that builds in intensity and atmosphere, showing a more introspective side that sets it apart from previous narratives. Other highlights include the demanding and quirky “Twisted” by Wardell Gray and Annie Ross, which almost recalls Mel Tormé in its stylistic scat jaunts and playful scale-jumping in tandem with the band’s outstanding and sizzling support. It all makes for one hot show blissfully saved on a superior disc that should be flying off the shelves for anyone who appreciates great musicianship… and class.

This cut alone validates the talent of this young man who faces quite a future.

Overall, Jonathan Karrant commands a stage with confidence and commitment and it’s all captured on this live recording, where he is backed by his exceptional band led by Corpuz. Too be sure, Karrant has grown into a unique, contemporary pop-jazz artist who sets his own musical standards of technical finesse that, at times, encompasses a crooning and up-tempo scat improvisation that adds just the right amount of bite to what he delivers. And, what he delivers is ripe for stardom. This is a CD worthy of any purist’s collection.

The eclectic show captured here is given a tenderness and highly skilled rhythmic backbone by the fine quartet which includes David Ostrem on bass, Paul Ringenbach on drums, and Charles McNeal on saxophone, all led by Corpuz.

John Hoglund

For over 30 years, John Hoglund has been a respected entertainment writer covering cabaret, jazz, theater and recordings. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Bistro Bits column for Back Stage. John moderated seminars and forums for the International Cabaret Conference At Yale. He produced many celebrity fundraisers in NYC including one of the first benefits after 9/11: “HeartSong:The Heroes' Concert” at The Bottom Line featuring 36 major stars. He co-produced “HeartSong2: The Heroes' Concert” for Katrina victims at Symphony Space and “Miracle On 35th Street” with a star-studded lineup. Other fund raising efforts include the first benefits for Broadway Cares and God's Love, We Deliver. John served on the Board of Directors of MAC for 12 years. He is well known for championing new and rising talents.