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Vibe Over Perfection

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Album Review

San Francisco based jazz vocalist Jamie Davis is an old smoothie in the traditional classic sense, while also enjoying a go at a contemporary pop song. His voice lies somewhere in between the smoky soulfulness of Joe Williams and the sly, seductive sound of Lou Rawls, and his repertoire also reflects those icons. With help from some of the members of the Count Basie Orchestra and conductor/pianist Shelly Berg, Davis has all the ammunition any big-band singer might want. The arrangements are quite impressive, they never intrude from the lyric lines, and the instrumental prowess of the musicians is impeccable. One wonders about the short running time of the CD at less than 40 minutes. Couldn't they have found at least three more songs to do? At any rate, you get ex-Basie trumpeter Bob Ojeda's solid chart on "Blue Skies," the good swinger "Pennies from Heaven," and the lowdown, bluesy "I'm Going to Move to the Outskirts of Town." This is where Davis truly shines, the band plays so well in the tradition, and everything sounds tight, together, and agreeable. Tom Hart's arrangements on "Pennies" and "'Round Midnight" are well thought out and accurate, but unfortunately on the latter piece, the classic vocal melody line sung by Davis is imprecise. As the title of the CD suggests, feeling does trump precision, but singers need to be faithful to the original tune, and then extrapolate. Hart's clever modal, light bossa adaptation during "The Look of Love" is stellar, very similar to "Footprints." "You'll Never Find a Love Like Mine" echoes Rawls but does not add anything unique, and Lionel Richie's "Hello" even less, though lead trumpeter Mike Williams does a good job. The work of arranger Dave Hanson shines on a uniquely swinging take of Sly Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay," while a hip, bouncy contemporary rhythm brings "Nature Boy" up to date, and Davis sounds most like himself. There are some outstanding instrumentalists, including tenor saxophonist Tom Scott, trombonist Clarence Banks, trumpeter Scotty Barnhardt, pianist Tony Suggs, the great drummer Butch Miles, and Berg himself playing piano on "Nature Boy." Overall it's a short-shrift album with mixed results stemming from the limiting and predictable repertoire. Davis is a wonderful artist, consistently good, and the band has many moments of splendor. A better set list will hopefully grace the next album. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Vibe Over Perfection, Jamie Davis
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