Consisting of mostly lesser-known standards and a few re-tuned classics, vocalist Kelley Johnson's Something Good lives up to its title with a set of vocalist-trio arrangements that offer crisp, clean lines. Listeners coming to the recording by chance, invited in by its warmth and atmosphere, might notice the hints of laughter and the clink of glasses that add to the live recording like specks of dust in a sepia photograph.
Much credit goes to Johnson—also an award-winning local teacher—and pianist, John Hansen, whose understated trio arrangements match the precision of Johnson's tone and her careful ear for simple but eloquent decoration. Hansen provides an elegant foil and frame for the vocalist's jewel of a voice, offering flashes of sly wit that fit the bittersweet mood of tunes like "Something Good."
On another old hat, "Lullaby of Birdland," the two restage the song closer to a lullaby than its usually done, followed by a sophisticated duet between Johnson and Michael Glynn (bass). Multi-instrumentalist mastermind Jay Thomas, who makes a number of solo appearances, comes in afterwards on the soprano with a few of his own bird calls. Often doubling bass lines with Hansen to contrast the singer's soprano, Glynn rounds off a rhythm section smooth as a smoking jacket, and as deep in the pocket too. Kendrick Scott (drums) plays a key role in the groups' dynamics, fearlessly building subtle contrast under the singer. On "Some Other Time" Scott strikingly conveys the song's third-act climax with a flourish of enormous fills and spontaneous rhumbas.
It's these moments of well-earned release that renew the careful arrangements on Something Good the most. As the scat-soloing on the brief "You For Me" attests, Johnson and her band take on the challenge of the short form that reward those ordering up front, just as much those working at the back of the bar.