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
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
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".