Having been one of 80 critics who voted in DownBeat’s 59th Annual International Critics Poll, I must say I’m a bit shocked to know that in the category of Rising Star Male Vocalist, Curtis Stigers’ name appears. He received 26 votes. I don’t remember if I voted for him or not, but if I didn’t I should have included him on my list.
Stigers hasn’t been to the Twin Cities in several years. Hopefully, he will come back sooner than later. His bands are always swinging. Yes, he can swing. I once saw Stigers in action at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles. He may have been singing to a small crowd sitting in, of all things, green plastic chairs, but he was doing the damn thing.
Freddy Cole is another male vocalist that I admire and enjoy listening to from time to time. He received 31 votes from DB critics in the Male Vocalist category. I’m happy to report that Cole’s latest CD is Talk to Me (HighNote). He once surprised pianist David Hazeltine, who was performing at the Artists’ Quarter on what happened to be his brother Nat’s birthday.
I don’t know why, but male vocalists are on my mind lately. George Benson is one of my all-time favorite musical artists. His latest CD from Concord is Guitar Man. To friends, I’ve said this many times: I want to interview George Benson. It would be an honor. I love his music. One of these days it will happen, if I’m lucky. Better yet, I would love to see him perform live.
Interviewing Lou Rawls and Al Green (twice) was great, but I must include Benson. Add that to the list.
Speaking of lists, I have all these little yellow Post-It notes with ideas and comments all around, and now I’m trying to make sense of it all. Bear with me.
The rush of being a writer
For one thing, sometime last week I must have been thinking about the time when I wrote overnight reviews for a major daily newspaper, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. My name along with “Special to The Pioneer Press” would appear, and boy was I thrilled. I remember going to Mickey’s Diner after midnight and waiting for someone to fill the newspaper box right outside the diner.
Sure, I would get the assignment a week or so before the actual concert I would review, which made it easy for me to gather some of my background notes and what not. But I still had maybe an hour or an hour and a half to turn over the story, concert review in full. If I called the newsroom to correct the spelling of someone’s name that I had misspelled — well, that could mean hell. It just depended on which editor I got on the phone.
One time, very early on during my assignments, I had made the mistake of spelling someone’s name wrong. I was told someone called and complained, so they had to run a correction.
I write all of this to say, what if the rules of writing an overnight review changed? Would anyone care if they read a concert review two days later instead of just a day later, so a writer, or “stringer,” could be as accurate as possible and a writer could stay for an entire concert and not have to leave early in order to get copy to an editor? I’m just sayin’.
I must say, the challenge to get the work done on time can give a writer (experienced veteran, or up-and-coming) a rush, and it can be exciting and all.
How do you like listening to your jazz?
Among MSR readers, I’ve been wondering what is the preferred format for listening to jazz recordings: vinyl, CD, MP3, or other. Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. At some point, I would like to gather that information for a future James on Jazz column.
Cover song ideas for jazz artists
Lately, I’ve also been thinking about how jazz artists come up with ideas for a jazz album, especially in light of commercial pressure and limited marketing options. Take pianist Cyrus Chestnut for instance. It wasn’t long ago that he had a CD out devoted to Elvis Presley tunes.
It also wasn’t that long ago that our paths crossed at the Dakota. I forget who he was playing with, but I know for sure it wasn’t his own band. I just remember that it was almost closing time, we were in a booth, and he had his headphones on. I picked up one earphone to listen to what he was listening to. The song he was listening to was by Zapp and Roger Troutman, “More Bounce (to the Ounce).”
Now, some years later I’m thinking why doesn’t Chestnut put out a recording full of his own renditions of Troutman’s music. It may not be a commercial success, but I bet it could still sell, and it would still be undeniably interesting.
I had another similar encounter with another jazz artist, and we got to talking about saxophonist Gigi Gryce. I think I mentioned one of Gryce’s songs during a brief chat after a gig. He said that he was thinking about doing an album dedicated to his work. The person I’m referring to is pianist Bill Charlap. Again, that sort of album might not sell millions, but I bet it would still sell and would still be undeniably interesting.
I mean, think about it. A number of jazz artists have covered Michael Jackson songs. A number of artists have also covered Stevie Wonder tunes. I think there’s room for some new Troutman and Gryce music in the jazz world. I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued by the thought of what Chestnut could do with “Do Wa Ditty,” “I Can Make You Dance” and “So Ruff, So Tuff,” not to mention “Computer Love.” What’s the matter? Too ambitious? Relax, it’s not like it’s really going to happen.
But what if it did?
Robin James welcomes reader responses to jamesonjazz@spokes man-recorder.com.
Photo by Greg Allen courtesy of georgebenson.com