The Adams sound is a potent tool at the service of her elevated musicianship. With such basics as time and intonation covered (hardly a given among vocalists, we must note), she is free to apply a truly adventurous imagination and fully inhabit her material. Again there is a reassuring balance of respect for the composed song and willingness to reshape it in the manner of an instrumental improviser, which results in the quiet daring of her interpretations. The harmonic notions she investigates are daring, yet delivered with sure-footed certainty, charging hip blowing tunes and more intimate stores alike with a jolt of contemporary relevance.
If all of this were not enough evidence that Adams is one jazz singer who can wear the often-debatable mantle without argument, her song choices reinforce the point. Not one to waste a superior vocal instrument on inferior material, she has chosen a program that balances unexhausted standards from the Tin Pan Alley side of the street with melodic gems from the jazz wing of Americas songbook. Seeing the names Phil Markowitz, Max Roach, Jimmy Rowles and Steve Swallow alongside Legrand and Warren and Rodgers and the others in the composer credits confirms that Adams has both ears and taste to match her sound. And while her homage to Chet Bakers memorable 1958 recording of "It Could Happen to You" displays Adams gift of feeling her material like a soloist most overtly, the tack she chose in crafting original lyrics for "Sno' Peas" before learning that Markowitz was himself an avid organic gardener attests to an even more intuitive sense of melodic meaning that verges on the clairvoyant.
The program also tells us where Adams is coming from as a jazz singer which happens to be a sensibility that is actively redefining both the repertoire and the pantheon of inspirational elders. Note in this regard that Roachs "Living Room" has lyrics by Abbey Lincoln, one of the definitive voices for nearly a half-century who has only begun to receive her due (thanks in part to the dissemination of her work by younger vocalists) in the past decade; and that both the haunting standard-in-the-making "The Peacocks" and the knowing social commentary of "Ladies in Mercedes" represent the verbal acumen of another great veteran jazz singer, Britains Norma Winstone. A less obvious yet equally telling presence is Sheila Jordan, whose version of "Falling in Love with Love" on her classic Portrait of Sheila remains definitive, and whose sensibility suffuses Adams ad-lib on automotive downsizing at the close of "Mercedes."
Speaking of vehicles, Adams has an ensemble to ride in these performances that is definitely luxury-class. While each member of the band deserves a nod, special kudos should go to pianists Prosser (whose playing and arranging make him sound like the soulmate he is) and Ray, and to Marvuglio, whose flute creates an especially memorable blend with the Adams sound. As the supporting group ranges from trio to sextet, and as the grooves shift from wistful to mysterious to witty to the liberating groove of "The In Crowd" (an even more jazz-friendly version than Ramsey Lewis old hit record), the sense of fit between voice and band never wavers. Which is only what a dream weaver with the gifts of Kris Adams deserves.