Ronnie Scott’s Guardian Review
4 out of 5 Stars
* John L Walters (guardian.co.uk, Sunday 1 August 2010)
Middle age suits Curtis Stigers better than his long-haired youth. Immaculate in tie, suit and breast-pocket handkerchief, he is smack bang in fashion, making the kind of Blue Note post-bop to which 1960s ad executives sipped martinis. He comes across like an amalgam of Mad Men characters Roger Sterling and Jimmy Barrett.
His band hits its stride immediately with Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right Mama. John “Scrapper” Sneider’s cool, poised trumpet solo (quoting Gil Evans) is the perfect foil to Stigers’s dry vocal. But Stigers is not a rock singer attempting maturity through jazz. He’s a jazzer who lucked into pop stardom. Which is why he can get under the skin of standards such as The Meaning of the Blues, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning and All the Things You Are, which he dedicates to his wife.
He follows this classy interpretation with Jealous Guy, a moving reinvention sung over swirling trio accompaniment by Matthew Fries (piano), Cliff Schmitt (bass) and drummer Keith Hall doing convincingly Elvin Joneslike “circles of sound” – John Lennon meets John Coltrane. Other postmodern touches include the clever San Diego Serenade (by Tom Waits), a jazzy version of Stigers’s hit You’re All That Matters to Me and the Beatles’ I Feel Fine – a version so “jazz casual” we should be watching it in black and white.
This is vocal jazz as smart and knowing as the best American TV, as Stigers integrates 50 years of jazz modernism in a way that avoids histrionics and supper-club populism. He has a likable authenticity that makes Michael Bublé look like Mad Men’s Pete Campbell. After the encore, Stigers thanks us with a chiselled grin: “You’re the best Monday night audience we’ve ever had!”
* guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010