If you want this in CD format, it will be available only in the What If? / Why Not? double disc format (available May 2021).
Known for her hard swinging bass lines and sparkling vocals, Kristin Korb departs from her traditional song well and dives deep into the exploration of pop tunes that burst with Korb’s trademark exuberance and inspired arrangements.
What if...I made a pop album?
Following the successful single release of her version of the Huey Lewis and the News classic ‘The Power of Love’, bassist and vocalist Kristin Korb celebrates a whole new collection of arrangements of hits from Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Barry Manilow, and more on What If?.
The notion of covering pop tunes isn’t a new one for Korb. “I’ve been adding pop tunes (and songs I consider more pop-ish) to my repertoire for a few years now, primarily because of the specific requests of a concert promoter. She loves good stories as much as I do, and she has thrown me some interesting puzzles to solve. They aren’t songs I would normally select given my proclivities, but they have become some of my favorites.”
Korb’s bass grooves swing deep and hard with her long-time co-conspirators Magnus Hjorth on piano and Snorre Kirk on drums. Her intimate and playful vocal lines soften the harder edges of the original versions while maintaining the all the joy. Joining Korb’s trio are Swedish saxophone titan Karl-Martin Almqvist, Danish trombone master Steen Nikolaj Hansen, and Denmark’s young lion on harmonica Mathias Heise. The touches of percussion by Tira Skamby and Aaron Serfaty give an extra sparkle to the project.
While the repertoire is familiar, the arrangements are not. Korb uses her sense of humor, love of groove, and understated harmonic sensibilities to bring the listeners’ focus directly to the stories contained in these classics. Mary Poppins gets turned upside down in Korb’s funky treatment of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Magnus Hjorth and Snorre Kirk’s interplay and drive throughout shift this from a children’s play song into grown up party.
The tragic tale of Lola and Tony’s love affair in Barry Manilow’s Copacabana is now a waltz that surprisingly intensifies and burns all the way to its explosive end. The dance break in the original version is now a feature for Karl-Martin Almqvist’s roaring tenor saxophone.
Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed shimmers with the soundscape created by Hjorth’s and Kirk’s sparce but supportive handling. You can really hear the trust and friendship that comes only with years of making music together.
Shirley Bassey’s powerhouse signature song This is My Life takes on a more nuanced transition from brooding pity party to life-affirming declaration in Korb’s hands. Steen Nikolaj Hansen’s longing trombone solo perfectly captures the mood, developing it, and handing it off to a buoyant Hjorth. While maybe not as familiar as the other songs in this collection, this arrangement sneaks up on you and will become your mantra for the day: “This is me!”.
Mathias Heise’s harmonica playing evokes a mystical blend of bluesy intensity and a Toots Thielemans dexterity that is rare in harmonica players. Heise’s harmonica is a natural fit for Korb’s cool vocals on The Power of Love and the New Orleans-infused Can’t Buy Me Love (Beatles).
A special highlight is Otmaro Ruiz’ lush arrangement of James Taylor’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight. Almqvist’s tenor underpins Korb’s tender vocals and acts at times like a duet in a late night intimate conversation.
What If? Is the first half of a double release reflecting two sides of Korb’s artistry. The second half, Why Not? will be digitally released in May 2021. (The physical double disc project will be released simultaneously in May 2021.) It celebrates Korb’s friendships in the jazz family, a few road stories, and lessons learned along the way.