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Kinhan shows off vocal prowess with 'Circle in a Square'

| Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, 7:19 p.m.

‘Circle in a Square'

Lauren Kinhan (Dotted i)

Fans of the New York Voices long have known of Lauren Kinhan's talents, but every now and then, she steps back to establish a sound without vocal compatriots. “Circle in a Square” allows her to show off not only her voice, but also her writing skills. She gets lead billing on 10 of the 12 songs and shares the writing role on the other two. The songs include post-modern pieces such as the title track, a slightly brooding “Another Hill to Climb” and the clever “Bear Walk,” a jazz telling of the Three Bears story. Whatever the direction, the songs all let her show off a voice that can spring into the upper register, do some scat a bit or handle lovely lyrics. Besides that voice, the album features Andy Ezrin on piano, David Finck on bass and Ben Wittman on drums as a steady backup crew. It also has visits from trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonists Joel Frahm and Donny McCaslin, and guitarists Chuck Loeb and Romero Lubambo.

— Bob Karlovits

‘303'

Rudy Royston (Greenleaf)

Drummer Rudy Royston takes a forward-looking approach to jazz on his album “303,” but never makes the music artificially innovative. The music is built around accessible melodies and driving rhythms, but is far more than a collection of standards. Indeed, nine of the 11 tracks are Royston originals, while “High and Dry” is from Radiohead and the lovely “Ave Verum Corpus” is by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His songs range from a moody “Mimi Sunrise” to the gently grooving “Gangs of New York.” The songs by the septet — which doesn't always use all of its members — also are varied in their length and the amount of improvisation. “Prayer (for the people)” is only 2:33 while “Prayer (for the earth)” stretches to 8:13 (even it if has a curious minute of silence in the center.) The band includes such good workers as saxophonist Jon Irabagon and pianist Sam Harris. Oh, and by the way, don't go looking for hidden meaning in the title. It is his area code.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Music Speaks'

Candice Glover (19/Interscope)

Might “American Idol's” slide into irrelevance be a boon for its talent? That's one takeaway to be drawn from the surprisingly strong debut by Candice Glover, who last year won the televised singing competition amid historically low ratings.

A big-voiced soul belter, Glover ended a lengthy stretch of victories by white-guy guitar strummers, including Lee DeWyze and Phillip Phillips — reason enough to celebrate her win. But she's also made a better record than the last few “Idol” champs, one that doesn't sound like its quirks have been ironed out in an attempt to satisfy the show's once-enormous audience.

There are signs of individual life here: the palpable regret in “Damn,” about falling in love “with someone else's man”; the old-fashioned sass suffusing “In the Middle”; the tension between desire and virtue in “Passenger,” with a characteristically woozy beat by producer Mike Will Made It. And, reprised from the show, there is Glover's powerful rendition of the Cure's “Lovesong,” which may go down as the final must-see “Idol” performance. TV's loss is music's gain.

— Los Angeles Times

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