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Live At Yoshi's - a Salute to Lou

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Album Review

A paucity of male jazz singers makes Nicolas Bearde a rare avis. While not a unique or distinctive vocalist, it's clear that he enjoys himself on-stage, as evidenced by the rapport, joke-telling, and personality he exudes. This club date at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA, showcases Bearde as a devotee of Lou Rawls, doing many songs in the repertoire of the late soul-pop icon. But Bearde sounds like himself in a bluesy, good-natured way and not nearly as deep-throated, overly dramatic, or bravissimo as Rawls tended to be. Though Bearde does use a few of the inflections and at times seductive techniques Rawls perfected, he does not lean on them as a crutch. Not unexpected are inclusions like the rockin' blues signature tune "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," a very long version of "God Bless the Child," and a swinging take of the overdone "The Shadow of Your Smile." Bearde and his fine pianist/accompanist, Glen Pearson, rearrange the Philly soul hit "Lady Love" with a samba beat, and add a lighter Brazilian rhythm to the Bill Withers tune "Hello Like Before." Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "World of Trouble" is the definitive tale of a man caught in relationships with two women, and the real surprise comes off the bat in an excellent rendition of Abbey Lincoln's steady and poignant double-entendre lyric on "Living Room." An empathetic Bearde tells the tale of a "sad cat" during "Nic's Monologue" as if it is autobiographical. Tenor saxophonist Charles McNeal adds greatly to the proceedings, and is a player you'd like to hear a lot more of. Field producer Bud Spangler accounts for the excellent sound of this recording, and gives Bearde not only an opportunity to be heard clearly, but to be listened to and appreciated given the gusto and verve he delivers in this set. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Live At Yoshi's - a Salute to Lou, Nicolas Bearde
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