Idaho Statesman: Let’s Go Out Tonight
Jazz will always color the world of Boise singer and saxophonist Curtis Stigers, but it’s just one of many influences on this eclectic, personal collection — his best yet.
Stigers’ 10th studio album feels like a new beginning. He wrote none of these songs, but you can imagine them on his iPod’s “most played” list. He uses them to boil down the essence of his musical DNA not just as a performer, but as a fan. With the helpful ear of producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux) and a fresh group of backing musicians, Stigers connects with pop, Americana, folk and soul in a deep, self-reflective way.
Leaving any ostentatious vocal approaches for concerts (where he excels), Stigers communicates with a quiet focus, as if he’s alone with the listener. The chorus to Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” almost feels like a whisper. It makes the album nuanced and pillow-talk intimate.
Stigers puts his own charismatic spin on Bob Dylan’s standout, universe-gone-crazy tune “Things Have Changed” — from the 2000 movie “Wonder Boys” — and delivers a lonesome gem called “Everyone Loves Lovers” by singer-songwriter David Poe. The title track is faithful to the original from Scottish musician Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile) — but Stigers’ shimmering arrangement is haunting and urban. As subdued trumpet weaves in and out, Stigers’ vocals exude wisps of steam — the kind rising from the grates of a dark city street.
Despite the fact Stigers broke out with a Top 10 pop hit, “I Wonder Why,” in the early 1990s, his reinvention as a jazz singer has limited his fan base almost exclusively to Europe.
This album could help change that. Some jazz fans might have mixed feelings — yes, “You Are Not Alone” is the Jeff Tweedy song covered by Mavis Staples on her Grammy-winning 2010 CD of the same name — but it feels like a natural next step.
Stigers already piqued the interest of a segment of American TV viewers by singing the bluesy theme to FX’s motorcycle-gang drama “Sons of Anarchy” for the past four seasons. And while “Let’s Go Out Tonight” won’t blare at biker rallies anytime soon, it, too, has the potential to tempt new listeners. It never hurts to give your career a little throttle. The man and this album deserve to be heard.