If I Only Had a Brain
From the first chorus of Andrea Ketcham's debut CD If I Only Had A Brain, it is obvious that the music is unlike anything heard before. "Someone To Watch Over Me" has been recorded a countless number of times but this version, which has pianist Cedric Piromalli starting out in 5/4 time, becomes a very ragged 4/4 when Andrea begins singing. Beats are purposely skipped or halved, the music is given unusual rhythms and accents, and the performance is full of surprises yet somehow both the singer and the pianist are perfectly together, thinking as one. The words and the melody of "Someone To Watch Over Me" are present and the music swings in it's own fashion but the results are essentially a brand new song. The other performances on If I Only Had A Brain are just as unusual, displaying Andrea's inventive and often-witty approach to jazz improvising and music in general. "It is very important to me that musicians sound like themselves when they are playing with me. I want them to be who they are and I don't want them accompanying me. They should play as if it was a solo concert and then I can do my thing along with them. That way it becomes sort of like a cat and a mouse or Tom & Jerry, where it is not obvious who is leading the music. I always want the performances to be fresh and fun." As can be heard on If I Only Had A Brain, it worked very well. The performers clearly had some real fun with the vintage material while operating as equals and creating wild and spontaneous flights. After the wondrous version of "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Happy Together" is turned into a somewhat demented waltz. Andrea's sad and expressive singing on a gloomy version of "My Funny Valentine" is particularly haunting. The hyper spaced-out boogie-woogie piano on "I'm Old Fashioned," the countermelody given "If I Only Had A Brain," and the way Andrea and Cedric breathe together on "My Favorite Things" are all quite memorable. "Nature Boy," which has Andrea reciting the lyrics while Cedric makes eerie sounds from inside the piano, is a bit spooky, while the contrast between the thunderous piano pattern and the soft vocal on "They Can't Take That Away From Me" is dramatic. A Monkish "That's All" and a touching "We'll Be Together Again" conclude this unique and very creative recording. A great deal more will be heard from the innovative Andrea Ketcham in the future.