Karen Johns & Company Release 'Star and Season'

The Franklin, Tenn., jazz quintet Karen Johns & Company is adding another dimension to the Nashville music scene by releasing Star and Season, a new CD of classic jazz standards and originals. The CD is already receiving radio airplay in major markets such as Toledo, San Diego, Nashville, and Orlando.
The group, which specializes in sultry, swinging jazz standards, is celebrating the new album by launching a national concert tour. Recent stops have included a CD release concert at F. Scott's Jazz Bar in Nashville and a standing room only performance at the Flying Monkey Arts Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Star and Season features new original songs by Karen Johns and Kevin Sanders such as Southland Summer, Carry Me Away and While the Moon. Listeners also will enjoy new arrangements of classic jazz standards such as Night and Day, Autumn Leaves, Stars Fell on Alabama, and Desafinado. The CD also includes a soaring jazz version of the pop classic, If. The album was released April 21 on the Ptarmigan Music/Jazz label.

"We are thrilled to release our second album in America's country and gospel music capital, " Johns said. "Our jazz songwriting makes us unique from most of the other artists here. We've labored over the past two years to write and arrange new songs in the tradition of legendary songwriters like Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. Star and Season also includes some of the most popular jazz classics of all time."

Star and Season takes listeners on two distinct but intertwined journeys: the seasons of the year and the seasons of love. The song Stars Fell On Alabama makes Southerners yearn for the nostalgia of their childhoods; the joy of living outside of the city, where the skies are dark and the stars are magnificent; and the joy of building lifetimes with their sweethearts. The stirring original number Southland Summer, which features Karen's sultry vocals, presents the imagery of a hot, sticky summer evening in the South. Another original song, While the Moon, uses Karen's soaring, soulful and melancholy vocals to convey either a hope-filled acknowledgment of current love or a sorrowful remembrance of love lost.

The act features Karen Johns on vocals, Brook Sutton on upright bass, Bart Elliott on drums and percussion, Kevin Sanders on piano, and James Johns on guitar. Also performing on the CD are Jim Hoke on saxophone and clarinet, Mark Horwitz on flute and trombone, and Ben Graves on mandolin.

"Karen Johns & Company have created music that has staying power, " said Butler Cain, news director for Alabama Public Radio in Tuscaloosa. "The entire work has purpose and meaning, and it invites us on a journey that's worth taking at any season."

Karen and her cast of acclaimed musicians are emerging onto the Southern jazz scene in a big way. Since forming in 2004, the group has performed at popular venues and events including the City Lights & Stars Concert Series and the Jazz-N-June Festival in Huntsville; the Palette Gallery, the Tennessee Art League, and the Percy Priest Yacht Club in Nashville; the Main Street Festival and The Factory in Franklin, Tenn.; and a private party hosted by former Vice President Al Gore. The act has received airplay on jazz radio stations across the region, including WMOT-FM in Murfreesboro, Tenn., WJAB-FM in Huntsville, Ala., and Alabama Public Radio affiliates.

"We are thrilled with the feedback we are receiving for Star and Season, " Karen added. "We had a wonderful time recording it with some of Nashville's top musicians. Our goal was to record a project that inspires others to be thankful for the love they have in their lives, regardless of season."

For Karen, singing and writing sultry, swinging jazz standards and originals is a soulful expression of her unusual and adventurous life. Raised in Alaska, the singer was privately and formally educated in acting, theatre performance, music, jazz dancing and modern ballet, graduating with honors from the Alaska Conservatory of Music. She studied voice under Gloria Marinacci, a retired Bella Donna for the Portland Opera and regional judge for the Metropolitan Opera. She later was named Alaska State Champion Actor for her work in theater.

Karen gained more notoriety in 1986 when she was crowned Miss Lane County and then named Second Runner-Up to Miss Oregon in the Miss America Pageant, winning the talent scholarships.

Shortly after moving to Nashville in 1991, Karen began working with acclaimed composer/conductor Stephen Melillo, singing lead vocals for I Never Had a Love Like You, a soundtrack ballad for the Miramax film Benefit of the Doubt, starring Donald Sutherland and Amy Irving. In 2002, the singer provided lead vocals for In the Stars, a song produced by Melillo for the symphony recording Beyond Courage. The recording, which debuted in New Mexico and Japan, commemorated the survivors of the Bataan Death March of World War II.

In 2006, the act released its first traditional jazz album, Lucky Day, on the Ptarmigan Music/Jazz label. The CD includes the classic jazz standards Meditation and All About Ronnie, as well as jazz originals written by Karen and noted Nashville co-writers such as Lori Mechem, Justin Kessler, Joel Bolen and Jim Hoke.

Karen and her husband, James, are founders of Vital Force (ASCAP) publishing company in Nashville. They have released several contemporary Christian albums on their own label, Isaiah 12 Records.

For more information about Karen Johns & Company, call (615) 337-4984 or send an e-mail to . To hear selections from the Star and Season CD, visit .

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