Produced and Arranged by Shelly Berg
, Wild Is The Wind
Also Features Roy Hargrove
and John Daversa
Kari Kirkland has just released the first single and accompanying video from her debut album, Wild Is The Wind
, which itself is scheduled for a February 26 release. On “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” a jazz-inflected rendition of Tears for Fears’ 1985 chart-topping single, Kari’s honeyed vocals move the song’s original disheartening perspective on the state of the world to a much more hopeful place. The video version of the song is a touching and uplifting collage depicting the many small ways that everyone can rule their own worlds.
As Kari explains, “It was very tempting for me to make more of a political statement with the video. The opportunity to create a literal translation of the lyrics was obvious. In the end, I chose to steer away from that angle, because frankly, I think we're all pretty weary from the onslaught of breaking news" almost every hour. I wanted to provide a ray of hope through all the misery and challenge that everyone is going through in their own way.
I considered the idea that ‘ruling the world’ can be a very modest thing. Everyone has their own unique challenges and is working toward their own short and long-term goals. A child's ability to rule his or her world can include the freedom to splash through the puddles, celebrating a birthday, or learning to ride a bike without training wheels, whereas adults' versions sometimes become a bit more emotionally complex. Most outstanding in my mind was the idea that almost everyone has their own personal version and scale of success, separate from society's.”
Wild is The Wind was produced and arranged by pianist, composer, and arranger Shelly Berg, who originally signed on to produce a six-song EP. He assembled an impressive cast of players for the recording: Phil Ramone’s rhythm section, legendary guitarist Dean Parks, Kevin Axt (Tierney Sutton) on bass, and drummer Gregg Field (Frank Sinatra), with Berg himself on piano. The energy that fueled the two-day session was so intense that it was decided to expand the EP into a full-length album. For their second studio date, the roster of musicians expanded to include session percussionist Brian Kilgore and three-time Grammy-winner John Daversa on trumpet (on the album’s opening track, “Do It Again.”) Special guest Roy Hargrove joined Kari in the studio to record “Too Late Now.”
While the presence of jazz greats such as Berg and Hargrove do establish Wild Is The Wind
as a jazz vocal album, the selection of songs cross musical boundaries, ranging from Adult Contemporary, pop, and blues, with bits of Latin and cabaret adding spice. The American Songbook is lovingly featured with “It’s Alright with Me,” “Too Close for Comfort,” and “I’ll Be Around,” while songs like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Secret,” “Do It Again,” and “Jealous” deliver a new and distinctive sound. Kari’s voice is sultry and sensual, gently finding its place among the at-times ethereal, at times straight-ahead swinging arrangements courtesy of Berg.
Kari says that David Bowie’s version of Wild is the Wind," which he considered an homage to Nina Simone, was an inspiration for the album. “Bowie said that his rendition was the closest to his ‘true voice’ ever recorded.” This idea of the “true voice” so intrigued Kari—who at that point had spent much of her professional life singing in bands to suit an occasion – that she wanted to get deeper inside the songs and allow the emotions stirred by their lyrics to drive her vocal performance.
In addition to continually pursuing a career as a professional musician, Kari’s peripatetic history includes being a former Ironman Triathlete competitor, a private chef, and perhaps the most significant of all, a flying trapeze and aerial bungee artist. It was at a flying trapeze class in Seattle
that she first met the man who would become her husband, literally in mid-air. Their romantic partnership expanded into their professional lives as Kari and Gary, who owned a circus school, went on to produce large-scale theatrical circus shows with Kari at the creative helm. So successful was that endeavor, which included corporate performances for companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, that Kari’s musical career took a back seat.
Citing early vocal inspiration from Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, and Linda Ronstadt, Kari’s vocal style and phrasing has been coined as “unique” by arrangers and producers alike. “In my teens, I listened to a wide array of artists: XTC, The Pretenders, Prince, The Police, Peter Gabriel, The Smiths, and The Band all stand out as influential in terms of melody, structure, and attitude. It was the iconic female song-stylists, though, that shaped me as a singer. In making Wild is the Wind, I drew from my deep admiration of Nancy Wilson, Eva Cassidy, and Julie London to bring forth a sound and a style that I hoped would do these songs justice.” Producer Shelly Berg’s feelings about his decision to work with Kari speak to the talents of this newcomer to the jazz scene. “Kari’s voice and style are uniquely ‘her,’” he says. “There is a depth of truth and heart in her singing that is very, very compelling. I’m proud and blessed to have done this project with her.”