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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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CURTIS STIGERS

Lost in Dreams

Concord Jazz 0888072315273

 

 

1. Cold 
2. You've Got the Fever
3. Medley: Vera / We'll Meet Again
4. The Dreams of Yesterday
5. Jealous Guy 
6. My Funny Valentine
7. Daddy's Coming Home 
8. Bye Bye Blackbird 
9. Reason for Our Love 
10. Dirty Water
11. Feels Right 
12. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Curtis Stigers - Vocals, tenor sax
John "Scrapper" Sneider - Trumpet, glockenspiel and bad vibes
Matthew Fries - Piano, Wurlitzer
Keith Hall - Drums, percussion
Cliff Schmitt - Acoustic double bass
Lawrence Feldman - Clarinet, bass clarinet, flute (tracks 4, 8)

 

There seem to be two classes of male jazz vocalists. There are those who sing songs fairly straightforwardly, with perhaps a little ornamentation but not a lot. And there are those who take the songs and use them as a starting point for vocal gymnastics which often obscure the original melody. The problem with the first category is that such vocalists are in danger of being dismissed as mere crooners and not real jazz singers. This has occurred with such people as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, who may not be out-and-out jazz singers but nevertheless have jazz inflections in their delivery.

Curtis Stigers comes into this same category: presenting songs without excessive garnish or twisting, but simply trying to get across a song's message or story with plenty of emotion. These are Stigers' strengths, as well as having the vocal capacity to sing in tune with feeling. Admittedly some of his early work was oriented more towards pop than jazz, getting him into the pop charts with such songs as I Wonder Why and You're All That Matters to Me. But gradually his style has developed its jazz edge.

Some of his choices of material for this album may seem hackneyed - like My Funny Valentine and Bye Bye Blackbird - but Curtis manages to make them sound that tiny bit different by concentrating on delivering the emotion they contain. His interpretation of In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning manages to dispel memories of Frank Sinatra's previous classic version.

Stigers also tackles less familiar songs, like Annie Lennox's Cold and John Lennon's Jealous Guy. And he adds four of his own compositions, albeit co-written with colleagues. His You've Got the Fever is a little too similar in theme to the Fever that Peggy Lee made famous. However, The Dreams of Yesterday is full of potential, as is the easy-going swinger Feels Right (both co-composed with Larry Goldings). The only miscalculation is his introduction to We'll Meet Again, which asks "Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?" and "Vera, what has become of you? - just now, when Vera has topped the pop charts with an album which includes that very song. At least Curtis turns it into a convincing jazz performance.

As a bonus, Stigers is no mean tenor-sax player, as he shows in Jealous Guy and Daddy's Coming Home. This confirms his jazz credentials. And there are some jazzy instrumental contributions from trumpeter John Sneider and pianist Matthew Fries.

Curtis Stigers' singing draws in the listener attractively, and at least he doesn't go in for those inappropriate bits of showing-off that one finds in the work of (for example) Kurt Elling and Ian Shaw. His voice often has a deep-down drawl which makes him distinctive. As a German website translated into stumbling English affirms: "Always be sound comes from deep down in the lumbar region".

Tony Augarde 



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