Curtis Stigers ‘Hooray for love’ (Concord) 4/5

Curt-StigersSinger and tenor saxophonist Curtis Stigers belongs to a small, yet thankfully growing elite of male jazz vocalists and is well schooled in the Great American Songbook which is where he situates a good deal of his work and rightly so since it compliments his sound. Produced by John ‘Scrapper’ Sneider, who also doubles up as trumpeter, this is a classy affair from start to finish with some beautifully crafted music and the influence of Sinatra on Stigers’ voice is all too obvious. The relaxed opener, an interpretation of the Gershwin Brothers’ ‘Love is here to stay’ sets the tone, though variety is on offer with an uptempo take plus guitar on ‘Hooray for love’. A duet with Cyrille Aimee, who comes across as a latter day Billie Holiday on ‘You make me feel so young’, impresses while Snieder the trumpeter takes centre stage performing on muted harmon à la Miles on the stretched out and gentle rendition of ‘The way you look tonight’. An interesting choice of song is that of Steve Earle’s ‘Valentine’s day’ which takes on a new lease of life here complete with vibes accompaniment and Steigers can successfully incorporate more contemporary material into his repertoire. If Diana Kraal has a near male equivalent, then it is surely Steigers who excels in this environment and his recent performance broadcast on BBC radio 2 with the Danish Big Band from a March 2014 concert in Copenhagen is testimony to his vocal skills in a live context.

Tim Stenhouse