There's a rather remarkable back story to jazz singer Kate Ross that one must know in order to understand where all the endless energy and backbone come from in her work. Diagnosed 30 years ago with a Degenerative Disc Disease that provoked two broken-neck injuries and inflicted lifelong chronic pain well beyond, she nonetheless as a single mother managed to tackle three jobs in order to put two children through college and then devote all the time it takes to be a creative, including not only getting her singing voice distinctive and gathering harmonic musicians but, in this case, producing the entire recorded affair once all that was done. D'ya know, dear reader, how much time goes into all that?
Thus, when you hear Ross' strong confident vocals, you know you're dealing not only with an artist but a force of nature. We're not taking storm force here, laying low mountains and whipping seas into a frenzy, but rather earth solid and windchase innovative, knowing instead of raging, nowhere so readily shown than in every photo in the CD's liner, Ross brandishing a huge smile and gleaming eyes. There's an undeniably solid firmament in everything she does, and the promo lit accompanying People compares her to Betty Carter, with which I heartily agree but would add in Nina Simone as well, and certainly Esther Phillips, among others.
Especially jazz singers like to slant toward certain instruments, not always but often enough, and Ross' is one whose voice is evocative of a trumpet in the hands of a Freddie Hubbard or a flugelhorn wielded by a Chuck Mangione. Her register is best set off in the title song, People Make the World Go Round, where guitarist Craig McMullen, Curtis Mayfield's one-time axeslinger, pulls out a slew of colorful innovations in the trippy intro and then a middle eight just before pianist Caleb Hutslar slides in, underlaying McMullen with a glidepath. Both, however, play upon Ross' bouncy narrative preceding and succeeding their spots, cueing from her readings and tone. The most affecting cut, however, is Art Bell's wistfully balladic Home to Me, a song akin to some of Paul Williams' best. Bell and Ross are Internet friends, and his four cuts, one co-written with Kate, are often biographical of the singer, explaining why they go so far in coinciding resonances and élan.
That Ross would form such an unusual bond with someone she never even met, however, is part of what makes her what she is. Most so-called "normal" people would be trepidatious, not her. She knew it when she and the gent found each other, and that was that. You can hear it in her voice. What she sings is what she is.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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