Mary Kastle
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Mary Kastle

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE
Band Jazz Soul


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"Beneath the Folds Review"

I’ve listened to Mary Kastle’s album several time this summer but only truly appreciated it this past week. One of the reasons music is so important to me is that it is so attached- to me- to where I am when I hear it: mentally, physically, socially… Sometimes music has to find you where you are- no matter how hard one seeks to undestand the music, it has to find a way to get within the listener. This album does that- heartily recommended.

Mary Kastle Beneath the Folds Black Hen Music

Mary Kastle, I’ve learned, is a respected fixture within the Vancouver jazz community, and Beneath the Folds is her first, full-length album. An album that ebbs and flows comfortably between generously-defined genres, the constant is the bridled joy that is Kastle’s voice.

Beneath the Folds is honest- an album that unabashedly embraces Kastle’s many and varied musical interests. With a full-album’s worth of original, creatively polished music, it is a surprisingly fluid and defined mix of soul, jazz, and roots sounds. A diverse listen, the album hangs together remarkably well. Whether this is due to Kastle’s vision or producer Steve Dawson’s acumen is moot; it works. While it may be of interest to jazz types, to these ears Beneath the Folds fits comfortably in the roots world.

In addition to Kastle’s appealing, powerful, and lively vocals, the saxophones of Karen Graves and trumpet of Kent Wallace make their presence known with regularity, providing the album with an even richer dimension.

Tracks move from sultry jazz-pop (“Julia” and “Beneath the Folds”) to light shivers of soul (“False Alarm” and “Do It For A Day”)and even more impressive brushes of Memphis-shaded country R & B (“Little Bird,” “Beggin’,” and “Underwater”). Dusty in Memphis meets I Am Shelby Lynne, perhaps. But while comparison to albums that themselves served as tributes to a style of music may suggest limitation, within Kastle’s hands- and voice- such association doesn’t imply that the sound is watered down. From retro 2-Tone dub effects on the album’s up-tempo revisiting of “Drop Your Cover,” to drops of blues elsewhere, Beneath the Folds is a project that reveals additional textures and appealing sounds with every listen.

Comprised of introspective, challenging lyrics exploring personal themes of universal appeal, Kastle and Dawson don’t allow things to get bogged down by heaviness. As is implied by the fabric fluttering in the breeze within the gatefold jacket, Beneath the Folds has a lightness that contains delicate beauty. - Fervor

"Beneath the Folds Review"

This is Kastle’s latest (and only full length) release after producing 2 EPs over the last 4 years or so. I think it’s fair to say that she gets better with every recording.
The album tries on a wide variety of musical styles: there is the not-unusual blend of jazz, RnB and soul with the occasional admixture of gospel. Kastle goes a little further and adds reggae (Drop Your Cover) and a country twang (This Train).

Kastle’s subject matter is the state of society and the people who inhabit it. The people are uncertain and sometimes lost, hiding their insecurities behind masks and conforming personas. She sings about those who are looking to make a path or find someone who will show them the way.

The lyrics are interesting and original, if sometimes a bit obscure. Kastle exhibits a subtle sense of humour that gives the impression of being just a little removed from the action. The songs are not square and a few cuts give the impression that we’re listening to the singer’s impromptu stream-of-consciousness musings.

It would all be fairly heavy stuff if not for the bouncy, forward-pushing melodies and Kastle’s light voice. Excellent musicianship and lots of brass horns give the music energy and prevent the songs from dragging.

All of these elements snuggle together pretty nicely into a neat package. One gets the feeling that Kastle is experimenting a little bit, trying out different styles and seeing how things fit.

This is a really good effort and well worth a listen by those who prefer their music eclectic. - Canadian Musicians

"Beneath the Folds Review"

If you’ve been lamenting the demise of real R and B and wondering what happened to soul music, an end to your suffering is in sight. Salvation – as the Good Book says - often comes in the strangest of forms and from the unlikeliest of places, but who would have thought that a young white woman from Canada would release the most rocking, heart felt and down right soulful record I’ve heard in years?

Muscle Shoals and Memphis are a helluva long way from East Vancouver, and though the city has become something of a roots music mecca in the last decade or so, it’s never been known for Stax and Motown inspired sounds. But, Mary Kastle sounds like she’s about to change all of that. Simply put, her debut ‘Beneath the Folds’ sounds like a record that many artists from Shelby Lynne to Diana Krall would have given their eye teeth to have recorded. In an era where Beyonce is considered the pinnacle of the R and B genre, Kastle’s slinky, muscular playing underpinned by the smoldering erotic tension in her voice come as a balm to troubled music lovers.

From the first phrase of ‘This Train’ with its Bobby Gentry inspired melody and its ‘Aretha sings soul’ vibe, I was hooked. Mary Kastle is a singer who isn’t afraid to cut loose, but who – more importantly – knows when to hold back, when to cajole and tease the ears with what she doesn’t sing. The control, phrasing, and the emotional intelligence she employs in each song are never short of staggering. Supported by her own considerable piano, Hammond, and Rhodes playing, Kastle is obviously a musician with some serious chops and insight into how to craft a song. At times she sketches out the melodies lovely and light; at other times she literally pounds the keys to unleash a tsunami of fat soul riffs that had my whole body shaking. In every instance, she delivers just the right emphasis needed to serve the emotional undercurrent of the song.

Like most records on the Black Hen label, ‘Beneath the Folds’ was produced by Steve Dawson. Often called ‘Canada’s T Bone Burnett’, he sounds more like a northern Jerry Wexler on this one. The spirit of his groundbreaking Muscle Shoals production style is never far away as Dawson lovingly layers instruments to give the songs a feeling and setting reminiscent of Dylan’s majestic ‘Slow Train Coming’ or Dusty Springfield’s ‘Dusty in Memphis’ albums. While that may sound like hyperbole, even a perfunctory listen through the album should be enough to convince the skeptical that Dawson and Kastle have risen to the challenge of producing a modern soul, jazz and R and B record that honours those who have come before by recreating the classic Stax sound while still maintaining a contemporary edge. The emphatic horns, deep soulful bass and drums, punctuated by Dawson’s Steve Cropper meets Dick Dale guitar style make this an album that - like all good soul records - leaves the listener feeling uplifted no matter how hurting and deep the lyrics to Kastle’s songs may be.

But, Mary Kastle’s music isn’t all style and no substance. Unlike many R and B albums that have one or two strong cuts offset by ten tracks of filler, there really isn’t a toss off or dud amongst this disc’s eleven original songs. Intelligent lyrics, interesting observations and witty turns of phrase abound as Kastle explores the ups and downs of romance in the modern world. Songs like ‘Little Bird’, ‘Beggin’, and ‘For All We Know’ are all gems that stand head and shoulders above most songs I’ve heard anywhere this year.

‘Beneath the Folds’ could very well become a template for making a contemporary R and B album. Blessed with great songs, a singer with a voice to die for, and musical performances that elevate each track, Kastle’s debut could well turn into one of the year’s greatest surprises. Hopefully, it won’t stay under the radar for long, and that people who long ago gave up on Aretha, wish Cassandra Wilson would break a sweat once in a while, and have grown disappointed with Shelby Lynne’s lack of direction will find solace in the music of Mary Kastle. This one’s for the ages. ‘Beneath the Folds’ is built to last.

Review by Doug Heselgrave - No Depression

"Another Swing Review"

Canadian-born vocalist/keyboardist Mary Kastle is one truly refreshing artist. Her knack for integrating pop, reggae, jazz, and other exotic forms of music into her repertoire makes her material the consummate melting pot of sound and culture. The blend comes across as oh-so-natural, as though she created a genre all her own and is quite comfortable in its skin. Her sterling, soothing vocals and clever compositions also serve as two of the main ingredients in this delectable mix. Admittedly, I fell instantly in love with her style, albeit only demonstrated on this abbreviated 4-song suite (her full-length debut is in the making, I understand). She released an earlier EP last year entitled Fresh Air.
From the opening notes of “Perfect All the Time” to the final notes of “Fresh Air,” Kastle takes one slowly, delicately, along with her on a melody-rich trip to a land fantastic, completely enveloped by abundantly sweet sounds and warm colors. The only disservice here is that this vocal “find” has restricted her tours to Canada, thereby depriving deserving fans elsewhere of her quality musicianship. We certainly look forward to that changing (she has indicated that she will tour “extensively” throughout North America and Europe in support of her forthcoming full-length debut).

The melodies here are so intoxicatingly sweet--like an exotic age-old fine wine—that I found myself irritated that the tunes were over so quickly and that I had to constantly replay them to keep that “fix” going. Ah, so incredibly teasing is this EP.

- Ronald Jackson -

"Fresh Air Feature"

Jazz Singer Tours with Soulful Voice

It is no wonder that jazz singer Mary Kastle is feeling good these days.
“Pleasantly surprised is how I would describe today,” she said about the state of her life.

With the growing success of her debut EP Fresh Air, released January 2007, and a steady touring schedule across Canada, Kastle said she has more than enough reasons to be happy.

She is set to play Rasputin’s Café, Sept. 21.

Hailing from Vancouver, B.C., Kastle, a self-proclaimed piano-junkie, described her music as a “hybrid between my jazz background and my pop, groove, and funk influences.”

Shortly after the release of Fresh Air, Kastle was chosen to perform at Vancouver’s celebrated up-and-comers showcase, the Listen Up! Festival.

“That was probably the most memorable [series of] shows that I have done so far [...] The best part of it all was that I had tried to get into it before and failed, and then after the EP was released, I got in. It was just a nice ego boost,” she said.

“I mean, being a singer/songwriter, self-confidence can be quite subjective and it’s nice to finally make a little headway.”

Kastle has been honing her skills as a performer since she was 13, starting out in bands and finally dropping her first album when she was just 18.

Still she said she was not happy with the way things were going at the time and decided to attend music school in her early 20s to better her skills.

While at school, she studied jazz piano and started to develop her affinity for writing songs.

Now a graduate with a degree in jazz piano, Kastle has been active in the music industry for more than five years.

For Kastle, Fresh Air was nothing special.

“It was something that I needed to do to get the ball rolling,” she said. “It was really not a big budget production, but it captures the live sound that my music is all about and has kicked things off in a small way.”

She will release a full-length album in 2008.

As for the future, Kastle said she hopes to tour in the U.K. and the States after her new album is released.

“If people keep showing up to my shows, then I will keep playing. As far as I can go is where I will go.”

And when asked about her love for the music, Kastle had only one thing to say: “Music is just... endless. There is always something to learn.”
- Tara Shapransky

- Carleton University Press

"Fresh Air Review"

MARY KASTLE’S DEBUT EP is a beautiful and heartfelt collection of six jazz-pop songs. Kastle has an excellent voice and is a great piano player, resulting in one delectable song after another. Minimalist backing drums, bass, and guitar give the EP a little extra polish, but for the most part Kastle dominates the recordings. Fresh Air is a promising start to her career and, with a full-length album due out next year, she looks like an artist on the rise.
—David McClelland - The Fulcrum, U of Ottawa, ON

"Fresh Air Review"

Mary Kastle conjures haunting melodies

In a Ritalin-choked music world laden with egos, tabloid fodder and stretched Hummer limousines it’s refreshing to find a simple moment of clarity. It takes about three bars on the debut CD [Fresh Air] by Montreal born Mary Kastle to achieve this moment, and to realize that some people were born to sing.

The production on Fresh Air is sparse, but it rarely matters, as Kastle flows through the high octaves like a tranquil stream and conjures haunting melodies from the keys of her piano. The six song disc, which Kastle herself admits is just a small leg of her musical journey, may not be an arrival, but is certainly a beacon letting people know her notoriety is imminent.

I spoke with Kastle, via phone, from Kelowna where she is starting a tour that will see her perform eighteen times in the next month and take her to venues in five provinces.

“I love being on the road,” says Kastle, “it gives me a chance to not worry about the little things in life. I just get to play music, and take care of my responsibilities as an artist.”

If her hectic schedule would seem overwhelming, Kastle does not travel with a band – only her piano, you will not hear any signs of burden in her voice. After all, barely a year ago she was playing covers and show tunes on a cruise ship. This experience might disconnect some artist from their path, but Kastle took playing daily for “a lot of baby boomers” as a chance to “get into the headspace of different artists” like Billy Joel and Elton John. It also led her to meet John Mulrenan who produced the title track on Fresh Air.

“John was a good source of positive reinforcement,” says Kastle, “we recorded Fresh Air in one take and he wouldn’t let me know listen to it afterwards. It showed that he believed in my abilities.”

The one take approach worked, as Fresh Air is definitely an emotional piece of sound. From its opening piano notes to its rousing vocal chorus the song makes me want to call my ex-girlfriend and apologize for random misgivings. The opening track “The Moments we Lost” is like a martini in some gin joint where everyone is sweating through their formal outfits. Track two, aptly named “Bell”, is the most intriguing piece on the album. The piano seems to be bi-polar (in a good way) drifting from near silence into climaxing notes, mixed with vocals ranging from a whisper to full singing. The true gem on the album in song five “Perfect all the Time.” If there were a song to crossover into new audiences for Kastle, this would be it. It is part Tori Amos with a pinch of Erykah Badu, causing immediate head bops and “Night at the Roxbury” neck spasms. The vocal harmonies mixed with some competent drum and bass work gives this track a very contemporary feel. The song shows the potential of Kastle’s music when she has a rhythm section riding shotgun on a record, which is my only grievance with Fresh Air.

The rhythm section falls short on tracks that require drums or bass to accentuate the vocals and piano. This being said, talent like Kastle’s only remains without band mates for so long. I highly recommend Fresh Air to jazz enthusiasts and metal headed punks, like me, who want to impress people by showing a sophisticated and sensitive side of their pallet.

The disc is available on CD Baby or iTunes. As well look for Mary Kastle’s full length debut to be releases sometime in 2008, updates and concert dates are available at

by Len Catling - BCIT - The Link News

"Fresh Air Feature"

Kastle makes her mark with funky jazz

Coquitlam resident Mary Kastle was just five years old when she sat down at the piano for the first time. Turns out it was love at first note, and the now professional singer-pianist is playing original music from her first album.

The six-song CD, dubbed Fresh Air, will also be showcased at the upcoming Listen Up! Festival of emerging musicians, running March 5 to 7 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

Kastle fused jazz, funk and world music to come up with a unique sound that is at once groovy, mellow and funky.

“I get compared a lot to Norah Jones, even though I feel my music is more funky and energetic,” she explained. And while the vocals evoke the soothing, romantic vibe of Jones, the energetic beat is more Stevie Wonder.

“I’m really trying to create a new sound, that combines the harmonic elements of jazz with the pop structures we’re familiar with. It’s jazzy pop.”

Kastle has been experimenting with jazz music since she was 18. At the time, she was working on a music diploma at Vancouver Community College and studying classical music, but she noticed that piano players in lounges and hotel bars were playing jazz.

She switched genres and earned her Bachelor’s degree from Capilano College in 2005; armed with academic training Kastle cut her professional teeth on cruise ships. After nearly two years playing cover songs the 27-year-old says she’s thrilled to be creating her own music.

The challenge, she added, will be to cut through the glut of singer-songwriters also trying to make their mark. Kastle will be one of several such performers at Listen Up!, which features up-and-coming Vancouver talent from diverse styles. The event is spearheaded by percussionist and VCC School of Music director Sal Ferreras.

Kastle applied to be part of Listen Up! last year and didn’t make the cut. “So I’m quite happy,” she smiled. Fresh Air is available at For details on Listen Up! visit
- Tri-City News

"Fresh Air Feature"

Queen of the Kastle

Like a breath of fresh air, Mary Kastle inflates traditional jazz chords and grooves with vocal harmonies and pop elements.

The Vancouver-based pianist-singer-songwriter cut her teeth in piano bars, but is evolving her sound to be more personal.

“I have this huge pallet of jazz chords and jazz grooves and all these elements I can mix together,” she said. “But I’ve always had a real strong independent streak.”

Trained at Capilano College, Kastle completed her degree in jazz piano in 2005.

It took a season performing jazz standards aboard a cruise ship for her to decide she wasn’t a jukebox.

“I think that music means so much more to me than that,” she said.

“And I really wanted to to express something new and something real.”

Kastle got the ball rolling back on shore and started writing her own music.

In her youth, Kastle was a rocker, but yearned to understand the meaning behind her music and her instrument.

While at school, she said there was a lot of pressure to play a certain kind of music and to play it a certain way, but on her own she regained her youthful creativity and married it to her newfound love of jazz.

“I love the idea of combining more than one style of music,” said Kastle.

“My jazz background and passion for funk music always find a way to infiltrate the pop structures I use in my songs.”

Kastle will perform at Cowboy Coffee at 449 Tranquille Rd. Saturday night at 8 p.m.

“I think it will be a really intimate experience and very personal,” she said.

“I think the music will really draw people in. The sounds of the songs are something very fresh, something people haven’t heard before.”

Admission is free.

For more information, or to listen to a lick, visit
- Kamloops This Week - May 4/07


"Beneath the Folds" - 2010
"Another Swing" EP - 2008
"Fresh Air" EP - 2007



Vancouver singer/songwriter Mary Kastle has found a muse in her Rhodes piano. Since acquiring the vintage instrument in the spring of 2008, she’s lovingly hauled the soulful piece to live performances and features it prominently on her latest and first full-length album Beneath the Folds. Together with her formal jazz training, piano lounge experience and folk label day job, the Rhodes has brought a dimension to Kastle’s craft that makes Beneath the Folds a virtual throwback to the days of Motown, and a unique spin on contemporary jazz and roots music. And it’s made for a bold and enticing debut album and her first for Vancouver roots label Black Hen Music.

“A little bit of folk, a little bit of jazz and a lot of soul,” is the way Kastle describes the musical mix on an album that includes reggae, boss nova, swing, gospel, Motown and a pinch of piano bar vibe from her years of playing jazz and pop standards in lounges. Consistent with the writing on her two previous EPs Fresh Air and Another Swing, Kastle’s propensity for exploring themes around self-expression and inner growth came through loud and clear on Beneath the Folds, but with a newfound directness and less self-effacement than in her earlier works. “Early on in the writing process, a close friend challenged me to be more direct in my songwriting, both lyrically and musically. The result was a shift in my approach and a deeper appreciation for what I had to offer as a musician. Some of the first songs that came, like “Drop Your Cover,” are about letting your guard down and just being yourself. I found the blues and some really old-school gospel forms to be quite conducive to expressing those ideas.”

Kastle’s innovative mix of new and old musical forms coincided with a major shift in the world around her. “Bush was leaving office and Obama was coming in, and there was a lot of hope and disappointment being felt simultaneously. Around me people were losing their jobs and many of the women I was observing were struggling with tough decisions like striking a balance between career vs. family. This is reflected in the subtext in songs like “Beggin’,” “Julia,” “Fortress” and “False Alarm.” The stories are personal, but they also mirror big-picture political and social shifts.”

The beauty of her shifting styles and up-tempo approach is that there’s something for everyone on this album. Not to mention an unshakeable beat that grabs hold and makes you sway. With the groove as her signature, Kastle’s versatile palette has evoked comparisons to other soulful songsmiths such as Norah Jones, Stevie Wonder, and Tori Amos.

Produced by Juno award winning guitarist Steve Dawson, Beneath the Folds features some of Vancouver’s finest jazz talent including Kastle’s longtime collaborator on drums, Paul Elias, renowned jazz bassist Andre Lachance, enigmatic guitarist Jeff Younger, Karen Graves on saxophone, Kent Wallace on trumpet, Steve Dawson on guitars and pedal steel, and the lovely Alice Dawson singing backup vocals on “Beneath the Folds”. “I usually have a fairly strong vision going in but I wanted it to be a collaborative experience,” says Kastle. “The whole crew all brought so much to the table.”

And if that vision included charming, entertaining and seducing listeners into a funky groove, then Kastle, with crew and Rhodes in tow, succeeds wildly on Beneath the Folds.

Watch for upcoming tour dates and find more information at