For those unfamiliar with Rose Kingsley’s remarkable musical history, the impossibly diverse singer and performer was once one of the world’s most celebrated opera singers, performing at The Met in NYC for 15 years and wowing audiences singing with opera companies throughout Europe. As a relative newcomer to the jazz and blues world who only recently released her stunning genre debut This is My Life, the venues and crowds are of course somewhat smaller – but the upside is that she’s able to share her heart and soul more intimately through song than ever before. I was an immediate fan of her album, but connected even better with the deeper heart of the artist throughout her multi-faceted performance in February at Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood.

Rose called her show “Jamin’ Jazz and Bluzy Blues” (spelled that way for effect) and she delivered beautifully on both, balancing her passion for dynamic theatricality and drama with quieter moments of lushness and grace for a dynamic ride through a wide spectrum of emotions. Rose has made an incredible transition from opera to jazz/blues by employing the raw power of her lower register of her voice. Beyond the resonance of her voice and her always engaging, infectious smiles that literally let us hear the joy she was feeling, the biggest takeaways from the show were her love for, yes, the blues, and for the generations-enduring poetry of Johnny Mercer. She chose three classic songs with “blues” in the title that let us know she meant “bluzy” business: “Basin Street Basie Blues” (most famously sung by Louis and Ella), “Blues in the Night” (a Mercer/Harold Arlen delight) and “Birth of the Blues,” which doubles as something of a mission statement for this new phase of Rose’s career.

Although she did everything from Billie (“Lover Man”) to Gershwin (a torchy version of “Summertime”) and her idol Barbra Streisand (via Julie London’s “Cry Me A River”), the Arlen/Mercer magic was the heartfelt centerpiece she kept returning to – from “That Old Black Magic” to “Come Rain or Come Shine” to “One For My Baby.” In addition to showcasing her effortless ability to command the soul in a genre that’s relatively new for her professionally, Rose conveyed a deep sense of pop, jazz and blues driven musical history. And she did so unselfishly, allowing her four piece ensemble not only to swing off her and behind her, but solo with abandon in all the perfect spots. The soulful Mercer continuity extends to her pianist Bob Corwin, who was son in law to and collaborator with the legendary lyricist for 20 years. Also on hand for jazzy, playfully grooving emphasis were saxophonist Steve Alaniz and the incredible father-son bass-drum pocket of Jim DeJulio (bass) and Jim DeJulio, Jr. (drums). Rose is in many ways still in the early stages of mastering jazz –but working with these seasoned pros gave her the perfect foundation to strut her stuff, find her groove and passionately launch this fresh phase of her life and career.

–Jonathan Widran, Columnist for Jazziz Magazine and Music Connection

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