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Kathy Kosins

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KATHY KOSINS

Relatively few jazz vocalists write much of their own material. The treasure troves of American popular song, augmented by the blues and by a separate storehouse of jazz tunes that began as instrumentals and have accumulated words over the years, provide plenty to work with--and besides, jazz melodies tend to be more complex than most modern pop vehicles, making it difficult to write appropriate and meaningful lyrics. For her ambitious songwriting alone, Michigan vocalist Kathy Kosins, who makes her local debut this weekend, deserves notice. Kosins composes a great deal of her own material: she cowrote eight of the nine tunes on her first album, All in a Dream's Work (Schoolkids, 1995), and took full responsibility for the lyrics. The album's subtitle, "a collection of new standards," may be overly ambitious--Kosins tends toward the confessional, and only a couple of these tunes are likely to enter the jazz repertoire--but her writing has polish and a good deal of promise. ("I Can't Change You," arguably her best effort, offers a modern take on the predicament Ira Gershwin painted in "I Can't Get Started," set to a bluesy hard-bop riff.) Kosins has an open, throaty voice and an oh-so-slightly theatrical delivery; she can play the cool pop diva as well as the jazz chanteuse, and she doesn't get hurt when she scats. Her singing, like her writing, falls somewhere between the risk taking of jazz and the heart raking of pop. For me, she's best when she backs away from earnest balladry and bumps into brassy, hip-shaking sass, but that she can do both convincingly bodes well. In Chicago she'll play with everyone's favorite accompanist, pianist Bradley Williams, and his first-call bassist, Dan DeLorenzo. Tuesday through next Saturday, February 7, Metropole Lounge, Fairmont Hotel, Illinois Center, 200 N. Columbus; 312-565-8000 or 312-559-1212. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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