CD Review: Kai Hoffman’s “Do It While You Can”

Kai Hoffman

Do It While You Can (Broad Reach Records)

By Brian Arsenault

Can jazz be fun? Should it be?

Absolutely yes, when it’s swung so grand by Kai Hoffman on Do It While You Can.

With her Marilyn Monroe look (if Marilyn could have really sung this is what she’d have sounded like), her out there and lovin’ it style, and neat little three piece band, she will rout the late winter blahs and chase them into a hot club.

Kai is an ex-pat American living in England and performing primarily there and on the continent.  Someone should start a movement to bring her home a lot.  I would but I don’t do movements of any kind any more.

She’s wry and funny on “Some Boys” and takes us to a cabaret on “History Repeating”:

“Why ask your head?

It’s your hips that are swinging.”

Kai Hoffman
Kai Hoffman

Please note, here there is ENERGY. And those are just the first two songs.  By the time you get to the title song you’re getting the hang of this: fun is not to be missed. A smile is good — “Make Someone Happy” may be the highest calling of all.

The song opens the second half of the album – with what are generally called standards, but need only be termed good songs. She and the band, as you might expect, have a flare for the ’50s and a little before and after. To wit:

– A real quick “Sweet Georgia Brown” follows the deeply felt “Make Someone Happy.“

– That really moving pace continues on “People Will Say We’re In Love.”

– Then a tender “Time in a Bottle.”  Remember Jim Croce? Those too young to recall should search him out.

– Back to Swing with “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”

– Finally, the best for last.  A real romantic “The Masquerade is Over.” Sarah Vaughan smiles approval somewhere in the cosmos.

It’s just a terrific set. Kai writes on the inside of the album cover that she “wanted to capture the sound of a live gig.” And she largely does. Even to the point that the drums seem a little loud on a couple of early songs, like when a live drummer is just a little too cranked at the start of the show.

But Sebastian de Krom will delight you with his snare work on “Sweet Georgia Brown” and elsewhere.

Gunther Kurmayr on piano can rise up when needed and support the singer ably when required. He plays with a lightness and ease that charms.

I noticed and appreciated Geoff Gascoyne’s thoughtful double bass playing more and more as the album moved along. (Phew, I sure hope I spelled all those musicians’ names correctly. Not a Spike Jones or Bill Lee in the bunch.)

You may dance, you will smile, or you can do it while you can.  This is to feel good.

A worthy goal of art.

To read more reviews, posts and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

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