Kat Reinhert's Newest Jazz Album Is About Not Sweating the Small Stuff

Kat Reinhert's newest album comes from a deeply personal place.
Kat Reinhert's newest album comes from a deeply personal place.
Photo by Karsten Staiger

When Kat Reinhert held the final copy of Spark in her hands, it was surreal. She'd put nothing short of blood, sweat, and tears into her second LP, and its triumphant message of courage and strength was more important than ever, given her recent divorce.

She'd done all of this herself — the writing, the arranging, booking the studio sessions, paying her band, designing the cover, getting it printed. Finally, it was finished. And then she noticed it. Right there, in the liner notes of track two, "Heavy," she'd credited the wrong bass player.

"You get a thousand of them, you open them up, and you're like, 'Oh, shit,' " Reinhert laughs. "But that's what the record is about, letting go of the stuff that's not perfect. OK, it's not awesome, but that's life."

She talked it over with Julia Peterson, the bass player in question, and Peterson understands. Mistakes happen when you're a DIY musician. Consider as well that Reinhert splits her life between New York City and Miami. She has two more years before the University of Miami awards her a doctorate in music education, and on top of her own studies, she's a teaching assistant, a private vocal instructor, and, of course, a band leader.

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"How many plates can I juggle before one of them drops and crashes on the floor?" she jokes.

Small flubs aside, Spark is an achievement worthy of her pride. Its 13 tracks are clean and well-crafted, merging Reinhert's storytelling with nuanced jazz musical arrangements. Each track includes improvisational breaks where her core band of Perry Smith on guitar, Ross Peterson on drums, and Sam Minaie and Peterson interchanging on bass get the chance to really let loose.

It's easy to enjoy, whether you're an avid jazz enthusiast or simply a fan of good songwriting. Reinhert's voice is rich and light, and her dedication to merging contemporary pop vocals with challenging instrumentation makes the experience all the more delightful. Lyrically, it tells the story of a woman who's found herself amid her own ruins, and in the end, she's better for it.

"As a society, we often shy away from looking at ourselves first," she says. "We're very quick to blame or shame someone else for something that's going wrong because it's easier. It creates a lot of difficult emotions; people become reactive... You have to forgive yourself for doing it and change the behavior. It's hard, but from my personal experience, it's way more rewarding. All of this music came out of that, and I never would have written it if I hadn't."

Spark is live too, which means the music you're hearing is the way it was recorded. The band came together in the studio and laid it down all at once. The process took "three takes of every song, 16 hours, and two days." There were a few minor repairs and additions in the form of complementary instrumentation and vocal dubs here and there, but the intro track "Walk Into the Rain" is 100 percent live, without any touchups. Reinhert gives a lot of props to pianist and producer David Cook, famous for being Taylor Swift's musical director, for helping to make the project all it could be.

"It was great to have someone that isn't in my core band," she says, "to have someone outside of those relationships to just see something with a fresh pair of eyes and ears. He was able to figure out what I wanted."

The album drops Friday, August 21, on iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, and all traditional digital retailers. Reinhert hopes to be able to bring some of her NYC bandmates down for a special Miami performance alongside some of her peers at UM. Already, she's got a nice buzz going, having teamed up with a PR company instead of just spearheading promotion herself. Those closest to her have heard the record as well, and so far, the response has been "humbling."

"To have people say, 'Obviously, this is personal, but I relate to this,' that's awesome," she says. "That's what I was going for, but you never know when you put work out into the world."

It's not easy being a singer, songwriter, performer, "small-business owner," teaching assistant, doctoral student, bandleader, and private vocal instructor. She's got a lot on her spinning plates, but Spark is the personal space with which she can give life to her own voice, share her struggles, her lessons, and her victory, and, if she's lucky, inspire a bit of hope in others.

"I'm really excited to see what happens after it officially comes out," she says. "What's happened so far has been really awesome, so who knows?"

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