Stigers Shows Love for the Genre
POSTED: January 10, 2003

Los Angeles Times

“Mention an area of the pop music business, and there’s a pretty good chance it’s been inhabited at some time or other by Curtis Stigers. The fine singer-saxophonist has toured with Eric Clapton and Elton John (among many others), recorded with Al Green and Gene Harris, and had his own top 10 hit with “I Wonder Why” in 1991.

Despite his colorfully diverse resume, Stigers insists that his true love is jazz. And his performance at Lunaria’s intimate jazz room on Friday night affirmed his affection for and his skill with the genre.

It helps, of course, that his timing is right. The male jazz vocalist category has not been overflowing in recent years. But when Stigers is at his best — which is when he is singing and not when he is playing the saxophone — his rhythmic phrasing, his musicality and his respect for lyrics would make him a prime candidate even if the field were filled to the brim with first-rate talent.

All those qualities were enhanced on Friday by the stellar accompaniment of pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Christoph Luty and drummer Kevin Kanner.

Working with their subtle rhythmic support, Stigers was crisply swinging on the Jon Hendricks-Harry “Sweets” Edison classic “Centerpiece,” sardonically lyrical on Elvis Costello’s “Baby Plays Around” and — perhaps best of all — authentically improvisational in his heated scat singing on Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce.”

The only downside of the set occurred when Stigers allowed a noisy bar crowd to distract him from his musical focus. He has too much talent to jeopardize its impact with sarcastic remarks to a portion of his audience.