After decades of countless despondent, downtrodden renditions of Satchmo’s starry-eyed swan song, finally someone had the audacity to get it right. Her name is Kristina Morales, and her radiant take on “What a Wonderful World” colors Pop’s compassionate reflections with a long forgotten sense of wonderment and whimsy. After matriculating through NOCCA’s musical theater program and studying classical voice at the Boston Conservatory, it wasn’t until the young singer returned home and started recording Wonderful World that she found her voice.
It’s a daring move to open your debut album with a completely reworked cover of one of the most cherished songs in musical history.
It was actually the last song I recorded — almost an afterthought. Prior to recording it, I never really liked the song. Two weeks earlier, I was at the piano working on another song, and “What a Wonderful World” happened to be on the Real Book in front of me.
I was coming out of a very dark part of my life, and my arrangement has a dark and mysterious feel to it. The lyrics and the melody lines fight the darkness. As I worked through the song, it took me on a personal journey and showed me what it meant to believe in a wonderful world.
Did you use this same approach when adapting lyrics to Clyde Kerr’s “Treme”?
When I started thinking about this song, I read the liner notes to Clyde Kerr’s album This Is Now. They were about his New Orleans — his “Treme.” It’s a beautiful and simple song that he used to open up about something that was important to him: his memory of a tree-lined Treme. He was living in the moment, finding closure in a new beginning. That’s also where I was coming from.
You collaborate with your husband, Nathan Lambertson (bass), on “Lunar Song.” How did that come about?
When I first told Nathan that I thought we should write a song about the moon, it didn’t seem like he took me seriously. But he really knew exactly what
I was thinking before I did. He had been working on a piece called “Lunar Song.” After he tracked it, I started thinking about what I could put over it. As we began adding to it, the song shaped itself.
We didn’t really plan for it to come out the way it did. As a jazz vocalist, I’m careful not to separate myself from my classical and theatrical background. The lyrics to “Lunar Song” are about a man who is in love with the moon — something he can’t have — and the vocal layers bring out the mysticism in his unattainable dream.