Kristin Korb finds her life moving in double time these days. The gifted jazz singer and bass player, who married in 2011 and moved to Denmark, is president-elect of the International Society of Bassists, and is frantically coordinating their annual conference next month. Plus, Korb has just released a new album, What’s Your Story? — her sixth since her auspicious debut in 1996 with the Ray Brown Trio. A West Coast tour brings her, and her new material, to SOhO Restaurant & Music Club next Monday.
Your first album since your move to Denmark teams you with some powerful company: former Ray Brown Trio drummer Jeff Hamilton and USC faculty guitar wizard Bruce Forman. The whole reason that I wanted to record with them is because they’ve been mentors of mine. I’ve known Jeff for the last 20 years, and Bruce for about the last 10 years. I think as we change in our lives, and as we make some major shifts, I found I was going back to my iPod and listening to the things that I fell in love with. I fell in love with jazz in the first place with the stuff that had grooves and a sense of fun and play and interaction between the musicians, and that’s the stuff that I really gravitated towards during my first year living in Denmark. One of the first things I did with Ray Brown was a vocalise for [the Count Basie tune] “Whirlybird.” I found myself going back in to the vocalise thing again, going back into these songs that rely on the interplay, fun, friendship, and trust that people have when they’re good friends. It was just such a joy to be able to work with these guys who I’ve looked up to. They’ve kicked my rear end to be the best musician that I can be; they’ve been supportive of me in what I’m doing. I can be in this situation where I know I’m totally safe — but they’re going to push me to the limit. It was really exciting to be able to do that recording, and now to be able to tour with them, and celebrate the recording together is really cool.
The niche of female vocalist with stand-up bass seems to be getting more attention now in the wake of Esperanza Spaulding’s visibility. Yeah, but it’s been going on for a really long time. You know, there’s Nicki Parrott, who’s based out of New York now; she’s Australian. She and I are the same age and we’ve been doing it for about the same amount of time. Carlene Ray, she was doing that, she was playing with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm [the first integrated all-women’s band in the U.S.] back in the day .
Do you arrange your music primarily as a singer, or as a bass player? As an arranger, it’s all based on the lyrics with the singer side of me. I’ll look at the lyric and figure out how I want people to see it. Like a comedian will take something that we just overlook in our daily lives and not think about it twice, but they’ll take it and put it in a new light so we have to really look at it and see it in a different way. So for me, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “You’re Blasé” — they’re songs that have always been viewed in one certain way, and I love twisting it, and making people listen from another angle. Ultimately when you listen to something, it’s about the story. If I’m singing, people are going to listen to the voice; they don’t think about the bass part. Yet I know as a musician it’s important to have that be as strong as it can be. And if that’s all working, then the singer’s happy — even if the singer is me.
Kristin Korb plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Monday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets and info.