Karen Ristuben offers new arrangements of jazz tunes by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Mason Daring, among others, on her debut album, Too Much. Ms. Ristuben brings a fresh sound to the standard and not-so-standard gems of the '20s, '30s and '40s with a blend of sultry jazz, blues, and roots music. The players on the album provide a fantastic floor for her to sing over. The rhythm section holds down the groove, whether it be swing, bossa, or syncopation. Ristuben's musical maturity is clear in the way she paints the melodies and uses them in the arrangements of the songs. The instrumentation is tasteful while Ms. Ristuben leaves room to breathe in the soulful solos and excellent dynamics between players.
Karen performs regularly on Boston's North Shore with some of the region's best jazzers. For her debut album, Too Much, Karen worked with producer extraordinaire Mason Daring. She is joined on the album by Duke Levine, Kevin Barry, Mark Earley, Marty Ballou, Per Hansen, Dave Mattacks, Brad Hatfield, Gus Sebring, Guy van Duser, and Billy Novick, among other Boston-area luminaries. While Karen effortlessly handles the complicated intervals of Thelonius Monk and croons the ballads of Johnny Mercer, she provides her own steady rhythm on guitar. This is an impressive debut. Karen goes between her chest voice and falsetto voice with ease, showcasing an excellent range and a very warm story-like singing style.