DAS KABARETT is the title of Karen’s first album and cabaret act, begun with pianist Larry Greenawalt in 1994. The project covers the extensive and varied repertoire the duo drew from the European cabaret tradition, along with a generous smattering of seldom-heard American pop of the 20s, 30s and 40s.
When Karen set out to develop a cabaret act, she intentionally side-stepped much of what had become standard fare in American cabaret circles, focussing on more historical forms identified with the birthplace of cabaret, Europe.
Over the years, audiences have received these songs as a revelation, and their enthusiasm has prompted Karen to become a student of the era, its performers and composers. Das Kabarett includes contributions by Friedrich Hollaender, Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Louiguy, Edith Piaf, Mischa Spoliansky, Marcellus Schiffer and the Boswell Sisters.
Kohler doesn’t just sing radiantly and strongly, she tells stories — sometimes cool, sometimes longingly, often teasingly, expressing the character of the songs exactly as she wants them to be. These are not mere covers, but new interpretations that lead one to forget the original. On Lili Marleen, her public held their cigarette lighters aloft and offered itself as choir.
JAM AND SPICE: The Songs of Kurt Weill
This album pays tribute to one of the most influential composers of the 20th Century, Kurt Weill. With this project, Karen dances lightly across the academic gulf separating the European and American phases of Weill’s career and demonstrates his uniform success in marrying score to libretto.
Included are several of Weill’s most cherished and recorded works. A total of 16 tracks span nearly half of his life. Weill’s romantic sensitivity, his worldliness, his satirical detachment, and the breadth of his musical sophistication are all in clear evidence on this diverse album, thanks to Robert René Galván’s careful arrangements and Kohler’s unique abilities with the music, languages and sensibilities of Weill’s oeuvre.
JAM AND SPICE marks the centenary of Kurt Weill’s birth and carries the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music’s centennial imprint. The documentation is replete with translations and song histories.
THE MOONS OF VENUS: Romancing Marlene Dietrich
Karen’s third album, THE MOONS OF VENUS, is a live recording of her critically acclaimed homage to the Teutonic femme fatale, Marlene Dietrich, whom she endeavors to evoke rather than copy. By her own acknowledgement, Marlene was the product of the many brilliant people with whom she surrounded herself. Composers, directors, co-stars, friends and lovers have their say in this constellation of songs and words from the life and career of the original Blonde Venus.
Marlene has inspired Karen’s work since the beginning, as has Friedrich Hollaender – one of the leading lights of Weimar-era Berlin and the composer of many of her songs for stage and screen. This album features Karen’s unique interpretations of Dietrich classics, as well as songs from Marlene’s touring years with the young Burt Bacharach that one may not readily associate with her.
Recorded live in the East Village in January 2005, the album features pianist/composer, Jed Distler, whose own musical talent is a compelling match for Karen’s range and versatility.
Karen Kohler brought Berliners Marlene and Berlin has felt it…an extraordinary singer who delivers the familiar songs of this enduring star entirely in her own way. In so doing, she moves us without disturbing the myth. Thus she skirts the false pathos of an impersonation. Kohler remains the medium, the spotlight, and the audible ash that is carefully breathed over an old papyrus roll so that we can better see and understand the legend.
The glorious voice of Karen Kohler… sample her abundant vocal wares drawn from the banned “decadent” music of Weimar Berlin. The Moons of Venus, a tribute to Marlene Dietrich, and one with a difference in that Kohler has done the hard yards, research-wise, and punctuates the songs, all beautifully sung, with fascinating insights into the character of this most complex performer from many of her closest friends, her lovers, her admirers — the moons, as it were, to her Venus. Kohler is another real find for Adelaide. Class, pure class.