Even if you’ve never heard the alternately jazzy, ethereal and soul-emotional vocals and sharp and playful scat mastery of Christine Hitt, chances are you’ll love the high-end jazzy company she keeps on her long awaited second album, the appropriately titled Magical Kite.
The versatile, swing and R&B/jazz adaptable, Wisconsin based vocalist, who released her debut on MaxJazz in 1999, when she and her husband were in the U.S. Air Force Band, jumps back in the fray (the illustrious Capitol Studios, no less!) with some of the genre’s most dynamic veterans. Producer, arranger and pianist Geoffrey Keezer (a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where Christine lives) leads a bright, imaginative ensemble featuring John Beasley (piano, Rhodes, melodica), Jeff Hamilton (drums) and Bob Sheppard, whose brisk alto improvisations intertwine to surreal effect with Hitt’s speedy scat on the collection’s emotional core, a spin through Charlie Parker’s bebop classic “Yardbird Suite.”
Adding to the intimate, lighthearted atmosphere, Hitt keeps it all in the family, with her son Eric anchoring the grooves via his solid bass work and her other son Cory providing backing or co-lead vocals on songs whose fresh arrangements showcase her effortless way with pop and soul, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” and “Shower the People.” Any album that can seamlessly weave Charlie Parker, Dan Fogelberg, Charlie Chaplin and Rosemary Clooney into a collective triumph deserves our respect.
Aside from her dynamic interpretations, Christine also lets us in on her songwriting prowess via the set’s lone original, the autobiographical title track “Magical Kite,” a tribute to the creative influence of her father. The title demands a bit of an extended metaphor: Magical Kite is a soaring masterwork that lives up to its name.