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For male vocalists in pop music, it’s the tenors who get all the glory, but in jazz and much soul it’s the baritones, and when I saw this San Francisco-based veteran compared to JOE WILLIAMS and LOU RAWLS, I was eager to check him out. He lives up to the billing. I’m not saying he’s their equal, but he’s close to their class, with a rich, dark tone and a good sense of phrasing (impeccable rhythm, perfect yet not overstated diction).
The repertoire is refreshing as well; there’s lots of stuff the COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA was doing in the ‘30s with JIMMY RUSHING (“Blue Skies,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “I’m Going to Move to the Outskirts of Town” but also more modern stuff, and it’s quite a thrill to hear a big band rip into SLY & THE FAMILY STONE’s “If You Want Me to Stay” (the producer of this album, GREG ERRICO, was their drummer). He’s even got the balls to tackle Rawls’s big GAMBLE & HUFF-penned hit “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” – and pulls it off.
There’s not much startling in the arrangements, aside from a nicely dark intro to “Hello” (yes, by LIONEL RICHIE, and Davis makes even that sound classic), but they are nicely within the style. A big find for fans of bluesy jazz and supper-club soul.
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