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JAZZ REVIEW

Blixt wows with her artistry

February 22, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

KAREN BLIXT'S music is not going to be hitting the top of the pop charts any time soon. Not, that is, on the basis of her performance Tuesday night at Catalina Bar & Grill.

That's not a criticism. Jazz artists walk a razor's edge between the demands of an art -- music -- and the blandishments of popular media. Making her Los Angeles debut performance, Blixt, a Bay area-based singer, kept it simple, focusing instead on delivering a collection of songs that were marvelously adventurous.

She started in the sparest setting possible, singing Duke Ellington's lovely "Prelude to a Kiss," weaving her way through the song's intricate chromatic lines with no accompaniment, intimately linking them to Irving Mills' touching lyrics.

The balance of Blixt's set was equally compelling. Rodgers and Hammerstein's familiar "My Favorite Things" took on an offbeat quality with a heart-skipping 11/8 meter, energetically driven by drummer Will Kennedy. And a duet between Blixt and bassist Abraham Laboriel on "The Very Thought of You" produced a stunning display of virtuosity by both artists.

A pair of originals by Blixt and pianist Frank Martin -- the politically incorrect "Spin This" and sweetly lyrical "Something So True" -- revealed another aspect of Blixt's skills. And her briskly exploratory vocalese renderings of Miles Davis "Four" and Thelonious Monk's "Well, You Needn't (It's Over Now)" affirmed her ability with instrumental-style scatting.

A near-capacity crowd seemed to love every minute, responding to each number with pop crowd-style whoops and hollers. So maybe Blixt's performance had an additional message -- something about the fact that artistry doesn't have to be culturally exclusive, that emotionally honest music, regardless of its complexity or genre, will always find an audience.

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