Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christine Rosholt: Singing Without A Net

About two years ago, a relatively new vocalist named Christine Rosholt released her debut recording, Detour Ahead. It was intimate and enjoyable, a raft of standards from her favorite era of the 30s and 40s.

Tonight on the Dakota stage, as she and her quartet recorded live, Christine paused between tunes to ask her packed audience, “So who out there came the farthest?” My only thought was, “You did.” Whereas two years ago Christine was a charming entertainer who sang, today she is a charming jazz singer who entertains. There’s a world of difference, and Christine has moved quickly from capably singing the tunes of Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and George Gershwin to personally owning them. It’s sort of like transitioning from a Republican to a Democrat, but without irritating anyone in either camp.

You can’t help but like Christine Rosholt—she is sincere when she says she really loves having such a big audience. She really wants to perform for you and make you feel as if you are the only one receiving her music. She truly appreciates the incredible talent that shares the stage with her—young monster of the keyboard, Tanner Taylor; also young and sagacious acoustic bassist, Graydon Peterson; eloquent gymnast of percussion, Jay Epstein; and red-socked master of many reeds, Dave Karr. And she selects tunes that are mostly familiar and speak to everyday passions.

But it is the evolution of Christine Rosholt that most impresses and inspires. She’s left her safety net of conservative “sweet ‘n loveliness” to take risks in interpretation and arrangement, giving her songbook favorites (“Summertime,” “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” "If I Were A Bell") clever, even quirky spins. Not every experiment fully succeeds (a nifty arrangement of “Surrey” flew by so fast that Christine’s usually perfect diction couldn’t keep up), but every effort conveys the explorer’s passion for discovery—of self and beyond. While staying within the basic melodies and harmonies of the repertoire, today Christine is finding her own voice, mining the stories behind the lyrics, using her early work in theater to inform her phrasing and dialogue with her audience. She still brings a sweet and sassy charm to the stage, but far more—a downhome elegance to “Alone Together” buoyed only by bass and drums; a sparkling flirtation to “It’s A Lovely Day;” a shimmer to “My Shining Hour;” and even a brief surprise dash of vocalese to “Comes Love.”

Christine’s first recording was Detour Ahead. Her forthcoming Live at the Dakota marks a major upward turn on her journey.
Photo: Christine on stage at the Dakota (Photo by Andrea Canter)