Maria Kim, Misty Blue Review

Elegance in Blue: Maria Kim's Captivating Journey with Misty Blue


Maria Kim, Misty Blue Review

Elegance in Blue: Maria Kim’s Captivating Journey with Misty Blue

by Sylvannia Garutch

Maria-Kim-The-Jazz-Word-cdAward-winning jazz pianist and vocalist Maria Kim has released her highly anticipated seventh full-length album, Misty Blue. This album marks her North American debut and solidifies her position as one of Asia’s most influential jazz artists. With her captivating voice and precise piano playing, Kim’s unique interpretation of jazz standards and originals dazzles the jazz senses.

Kim’s rise in the jazz world has been meteoric. In 2013, she made history by becoming the first artist to win the piano and vocal sections of Jazz People magazine’s “Rising Star” award. Her acclaim continued to grow, leading to her selection as the “2016 New Face of Korean Jazz” by EBS Gonggam. By 2019, her album through Sony Music Korea achieved commercial success, reaching No.1 on Korean music streaming charts and striking a perfect balance between artistic achievement and broad appeal.

Kim’s subsequent releases have only further established her as a force to be reckoned with. Her 2021 album With Strings: Dream of You, which featured a string chamber ensemble, won the 2022 “Korean Music Awards” and was celebrated by Jazz Hihyo, Japan’s most prestigious jazz magazine. Her 2022 album garnered her another nomination for the “2023 Korean Music Awards” and was selected as “Album of the Year” by Hankook Ilbo, with Kim herself being named “Artist of the Month” on Melon Track Zero.

In 2023, Maria Kim received the “Jazz Artist Award” at the 29th Korean Entertainment Arts Awards, further solidifying her reputation as an influential jazz artist in Asia.

Misty Blue is a blend of 1960s-inspired standards and hard bop jazz, featuring ten tracks that showcase Maria Kim’s exceptional piano talent and artistic singing style. The album includes prerelease singles like “Tight” and “Peel Me a Grape” and features American jazz trumpeter and vocalist Benny Bennack III on select tracks.

The album opens with “Comes Love,” a traditional straight-ahead swing tune highlighting Kim’s warm and expressive vocals. Her elegant piano playing beautifully complements the horn sections, and her improvisations, including subtle scatting embellishments, add a swinging, fun, and feel-good atmosphere to the track.

“Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” is another standout. Its well-crafted arrangement perfectly suits Kim’s swinging vocals. The song’s lyrical, engaging, and light energy is a testament to the wonderful playing by all musicians involved.

The title track, “Misty Blue,” slows things down with a sultry swing. Kim’s sensual, breathy passages and soulful embellishments create an intimate and exotic ambiance, drawing listeners into her emotional world.

“Peel Me a Grape” brings a fresh swingin’ sound to a classic jazz standard. Kim’s smooth and clean vocals, combined with her jovial piano playing, make this track a light and joyous experience, enhanced by the excellent ensemble playing.

“Tight,” featuring Benny Bennack III on vocals and trumpet, is a medium swing selection with a hip vocal duet. Kim’s swinging piano solo and vocal improvisation are stunning, making this track a fun and engaging listen.

“You’re Mine, You” showcases Kim’s impressive vocal range in an intimate ballad. Her alluring vocals and piano flow elegantly, with Bennack’s expressive vocal part adding to the classic jazz ballad feel.

“Some Cats Know” is an animated medium swing number perfect for dancing. Kim’s flirty voice brings the melody to life, with the rhythm section propelling the feel and excellent solos from the saxophone and trumpet.

“Won’t You Open Your Senses” shifts to a medium funky groove, introducing a soul jazz setting. Kim’s rhythmic and vocal phasing match the straight eight-groove environment, with her tone gaining an edge to match the song’s energy, creating a groovy, hip, and sensual vibe.

“Señor Blues” is a beautiful arrangement of Horace Silver’s classic. The relaxed six-eight groove pairs the elegance of Silver’s writing with the skill of Kim’s ensemble, showcasing her upper register in an exotic Latin jazz vibe.

The album closes with “Jeannine,” a solid hard-bop performance. The chemistry between Kim and Bennack is palpable, with both vocalists bringing technical mastery to their vocal improvisations and vocalese, leaving listeners with a lasting impression of their remarkable talent.

Misty Blue displays Maria Kim’s ability to blend pure artistry with commercial appeal. Her impeccable musicianship, combined with her ensemble’s exceptional contributions, creates an emotionally resonant and technically outstanding album. As Kim embarks on her world tour, performing at prestigious venues like Blue Note and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Misty Blue is set to captivate audiences worldwide, solidifying her status as a global jazz sensation.

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