Taking a quick glance at vocalist Kat Parra’s new CD, you might get the impression that this is another one of those ‘Great American Songbook’ albums, but a closer look at the title reveals an important extra ‘s’, as the correct title is “Songbook of the Americas”, with the word ‘Americas’ letting us know that these songs include the entire north and south continents, from Chile to the USA. Kat covers a lot of ground on here with songs that come from Cuba, Peru, Argentina and more, and styles as varied as mambo, cha-cha, be-bop, rumba and much more. None of this is out of her reach, as Parra is well versed in vocal styles all over the globe.
“Songbook of the Americas” opens nicely with a mambo version of the well known standard, “Four”, for which Kat added new lyrics. This is followed by a cha-cha version of Betty Carter’s sassy “Please do Something” and a swinging version of Bird’s “Au Privave” (re-titled “Wouldn’t it be Sweet”), for which Kat once again provided new lyrics. The album picks up a bit when Tuck and Patti join Kat on her original “Dare to Dream”, as Kat and Patti’s harmonizing together is truly remarkable, but things really start to take off when Kat settles into more traditional Latin fare.
Something happens to Parra’s voice when she sings in Spanish on “Maria Lando”, Veinte Anos” and “Como La Cigarra”. These Latin songs call for a different style of singing and it seems to fit Kat well as she brings the power and passion in her voice up a few notches. The album closes out with four more tracks, including a vocal duet with Nate Pruitt on a rumba version of “Till there was You”. Album closer, “Mambo Italiano”, brings things to an end with a sense of humor.
There are a lot of pluses on “Songbook of the Americas”, Kat’s many duets with her guests are all outstanding, and her contributions in writing and arranging show that she is much more than just a singer. This album will probably be one of the more original vocal albums to come out this year.