Fully embodying the title of her 15th and latest #1 track on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart, Kristine W— an international dance music icon since the late 90s–is finding exciting new ways to share “The Power of Music” with the release of Straight Up with a Twist, an extraordinarily ambitious, four years in the making project (2-CDs, 30 tracks) that marks her highly anticipated contemporary jazz debut.
Kristine’s venture into a new genre expands upon the incredible success she has enjoyed for many years in the dance world and beyond:• She currently holds the world’s record for Most Consecutive #1 Billboard Club Hits with nine; Madonna and Janet Jackson each had seven in a row.
• She recently tied Mariah Carey for third-most chart toppers on the Dance/Club Play Songs chart; only Madonna (with 40) and Janet (19) have scored more at the pole position.
• In December 2009, Billboard published both their Year End and Decade End charts announcing Kristine in the third place position on the Decade’s Best of 2000s Dance Club Play Artists list, trailing only Madonna and Beyonce.
• As a former Miss Washington Kristine won the talent and swimsuit competitions in the Miss America Pageant
• Performed more shows at the Las Vegas Hilton than any other performer in its history—including Elvis!
Straight Up with a Twist may be Kristine W’s first official jazz recording, but jazz has been one of the singer’s greatest passions since early childhood. Growing up in Tri-Cities, Washington, her grandmother—a pianist, classical violinist, and guitarist—exposed her to singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae. Kristine’s mother raised a family of five on her own by singing jazz and standards in local juke joints. At age nine, Kristine was singing with her mother. Soon, she was competing in local beauty pageants and some years later, it was her rendition of “Summertime” that won her the talent competition at the Miss America Pageant.
One of her reasons for recording Straight Up with a Twist was the constant requests of her dance fans who enjoyed the way she incorporated scat into that genre. While keeping them satisfied with her latest single “Fade,” the multi-talented singer, songwriter, and performer is also releasing “Feel What You Want” as the debut single from Straight Up with a Twist; a hypnotic, bossa nova flavored take on her first #1 Dance hit in the mid-90s.In addition to sensual and stylish interpretations of her most popular dance floor smashes (including “Feel What You Want,” “Wonder of It All,” “Save My Soul” and “Stronger”), Disc One (Live Sessions) includes several previously unrecorded songs and Kristine’s “twists” on a variety of pop and rock classics (including “Stairway To Heaven,” “On The Radio,” “That’s What I Like About You”) recorded in a live studio setting. Disc Two (Chilled Remixes) features remixes of these tracks and several others by Buddha Bar-influenced international chilled lounge greats Emoticon and Von Shock. This second set concludes with an easy grooving, hip-hop-infused version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” featuring keyboardist David Paich of the band Toto. Kristine also worked on the album with Myron Dove, Ricky Z, Eric Tewalt, Jason Hahn, Dave Hart, and Lance Lee. She created the album’s unique and diverse jazzy arrangements with her longtime keyboardist Ed Roth.
“One of the reasons Straight Up with a Twist took four years to complete was because I insisted on bringing the best musicians to the project and scheduling time with these busy artists was complicated,” says Kristine. “This was my first foray into recording a jazz album. I figured if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right.” The end result is proof positive the wait was well worth it. The musicians on the album have toured with Carlos Santana, Marc Anthony, Paulinho Rubio, Diana Ross, Jeffrey Osborne, and Paul McCartney. It was an honor to work with such a high caliber of music professionals.
Kristine likes to say that she loves jazz with a funk vibe and that “Latin jazz takes you there.” Along those lines, she launches Disc One (Live Sessions) with a tropical flavored bossa nova vibe on “Feel What You Want.” She then tackles the granddaddy of all classic rock songs, “Stairway To Heaven,” putting a touch of laid-back, jazzy cool, and scat into a sexy, soulful arrangement. “Lyrically, I think it’s one of the most interesting songs ever and I think the Led Zeppelin posse will be pleased with what we did,” she says. She pays homage to one of her musical heroes with a dreamy and intimate, lounge-ready arrangement of Donna Summer’s disco classic “On The Radio.” Her passionate vocal takes the song to a new romantic depth. Kristine gives her 2004 hit “Save My Soul” a rich emotional/spiritual urgency as she tenderly declares love while opening her heart to the light. One of the most playful surprises on the album is her sultry, easy-funk/swing arrangement of The Romantics’ 1980 hit ‘What I Like About You”; the track’s playful piano, guitar, and harmonica harmonies turn the well-worn pop song into a fresh revelation.
The bluesy, jazzy and soulful arrangement of her 2003 track “Some Lovin” (complete with a bit of scat and scat-like phrasing) fully epitomizes the spirit of the whole Straight Up project. Graceful, sparsely arranged new versions of her hits “Stronger” and “Wonder Of It All” are sandwiched between two never-before recorded original songs: the charming bossa nova flavored “Window To Your World” and the inspirational and uplifting, easy grooving “Dream On.” “The song on the album with the most meaning to me is ‘Dream On,” Kristine says. “It’s a song I wrote in college and never finished until this project. It’s funny to think of the girl I was then writing this song, dreaming about her career, never imagining the fabulous road she would be traveling.” Eagles fans and jazz fans (that covers just about everyone across the musical spectrum!) will love the way Kristine brings a swinging soul cool and jazzy phrasing to “Take It To The Limit.” This is followed by two powerful new songs, the haunting, socially conscious “River Divides” (which uses as a universal metaphor the river that divided the three socio-economic areas into the Tri-Cities regions) and the poignant ballad “Who Knows.” Kristine turns“Meet Again” from her recent Power of Music CD into a power ballad with lush soundscaping, acoustic guitar, and a soaring vocal hook. She wraps CD One with an instrumental, trippy, and sax-driven version of “Feel What You Want.”
While the general feel of Disc Two (Chilled Remixes) is atmospheric, soulful, and easily percussive, Emoticon and Von Shock infuse some unexpected touches into many of the songs from Disc One. “Stairway To Heaven” includes saxophone echoes over cool thumping, while “On The Radio” blends the singer’s ethereal vocals with heavy synth horns and thick swirls of ambiance. “Window To Your World” features Kristine’s whispery lead vocals over soaring exotic voices and touches of Eastern music–a vibe that also inhabits “Wonder Of It All,” which includes hypnotic patches of sitar. Disc Two features two tracks that are not on Disc One: the chillin’ but still highly danceable, echoing effects-filled “The Boss” (#1 in 2008) and a buoyant, slow jam hip-hop twist on “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”
“My new jazz projects are exciting because this style of music allows me to be heard during the chilled moments in life,” says Kristine. “Music is supposed to take people on a journey, and that’s exactly what I’m creating on Straight Up with a Twist. This was a fun project to work on, and my favorite moments were when I was with my collaborators, throwing everything on the table, working on new arrangements, and figuring out how to make that journey amazing for my fans. My audience has been so supportive of my music. I want to be in the mix for them in anyway I can. I am blessed to be living my dream.”