At Live! on the Park, SW1
POSTED: December 10, 2005

Clive Davis, London Times

Scanning the coverage of Curtis Stigerss rebirth as a jazz singer the best in the business, I would say tells you an awful lot about how the media loves to fall back on lazy preconceptions. Some people, it seems, just cannot get past the fact that the American vocalist used to be a fluffy, platinum-selling soft-rocker. This somehow prevents them from taking him seriously as a jazz artist, even though jazz was one of his early passions.

Well, there are only two solutions for such wilful blindness. Either you get hold of his most recent albums or you must catch his seven-night residency. Yes, it really is possible to make jazz entertaining without resorting to FM radio Muzak or glib theatrics. Stigers can switch on the bebop pulse as easily as many more fashionable names. What he also possesses, unlike many of his peers, is the rare knack of turning high-class pop material into first-rate vehicles for improvisation.

His cleverly re-harmonised cover of the Beatles I Feel Fine is the obvious example. But there were countless others, fromThats All Right, Mama to the Polices early hit I Cant Stand Losing You. Stigers choreographs everything in ultra-precise fashion, almost down to the last ad lib, yet the arrangements are supple and inventive enough to keep déja vu at bay even when you have heard the material performed live three or four times.

Perhaps the last third of this long, uninterrupted set could have been pared down slightly. But there was genuine anger in Mose Allisons Vietnam-era anthem Everybody Cryin Mercy, while his treatment of Willie Dixons My Babe was irresistibly funky. Stigers possesses the crispest rhythm section imaginable in the pianist Matthew Fries, bassist Phil Palombi and drummer Keith Hall. His concise but pungent saxophone playing is growing in authority too.

As for his own stage manner, he is languid, intelligent and the complete antithesis of a prepackaged, oven-ready pop wannabe. If it all sounds too good be true, lay your prejudices aside and listen for yourself.

– Clive Davis