Kevin Fitzsimmons ‘Working Day and Night – Live at Pizza Express Jazz Club’ CD/DIG (Jazzwurx) 3/5

British jazz vocalist, Kevin Fitzsimmons, has been influenced by the likes of Mark Murphy and Mel Tormé, but this live performance at the Pizza Express from July 2016 is an illustration of a singer rapidly developing his own voice. Backed by an excellent and swinging quartet, the time is a little short at just under fifty minutes and could be a tad more generous with at least another twenty minutes to give the wider audience a fair indication of the singer’s worth, but the music itself is, in general, of a high standard and that bodes well. The Great American Songbook as well as more contemporary standards are tackled in turn with aplomb and the clarity of sound enhances the experience.

A memorable reading of Leon Russell’s ‘This Masquerade’, immediately made an impact on this listener, with growing confidence leading to frequent ad-libbing that was never over the top or too lengthy. One unusual, yet wholly authentic reworkings is of Michael Jackson’s ‘Working Day And Night’, which is ideal re-situated in a jazz idiom. Full marks for being so brave and pulling it off so convincingly. Another cover of interest is Sting’s ‘Every Breath You Take’, which has a lovely Gene Harris inspired blues inflected intro on piano, and Fitzsimmons certainly transforms this into his own number, which is to his credit.

Of the original material, the blues influences on ‘Cuban Alibi’ worked a treat with a Latin vamp on piano by Leon Greening, and maybe the inclusion of more original pieces would both facilitate the singer’s own voice coming to the fore, and would be one means of boosting the volume of content in a live context.

Elsewhere, Kevin Fitzsimmons has developed his craft, working on television adverts including with Naomi Watts, and has performed both at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Ronnie Scott’s. A bright future is promised and one looks forward to hearing more of the challenging side of the singer’s repertoire and a blossoming of his own compositional skills.

Tim Stenhouse