The Guardian: Curtis Stigers at Ronnie Scott’s
John Fordham – The Guardian
Curtis Stigers, the early-90s pop star from Idaho who devoted himself to jazz when middle-age and the millennium arrived, ought to be the kind of comfort-zone artist that annoys the jazz hardcore – but he isn’t. Stigers sings lost-love songs, plays a little bluesy tenor sax, and winds up his sets with his old hit singles (like the 1992 soul-swinger You’re All That Matters to Me) that he knows a big percentage of his listeners have come to hear. But his respect for good lyrics, self-deprecating gags and shrewd use of his sidemen’s improv skills make him an artist of genuine class and laconic charm, if not a trailblazer. Stigers’s current tour promotes his new album Let’s Go Out Tonight – a programme he clearly regards as uncannily autobiographical, even though it’s his first in almost a decade without a single self-penned song.
Stigers’s backing musicians looked like a convention of accountants, but they delivered a blues and mainstream-swing accompaniment with engaging zest – particularly trumpeter John Sneider’s eloquently earthy pre-bebop sound and soulful use of the wah-wah mute. The Eddie Floyd/Steve Cropper song Oh, How It Rained launched the show with stealthily chugging blues, which Stigers embroidered with languid hoots and slurs on the tenor sax. The leader’s own You Got the Fever brought suitably heated interjections from Sneider, and inspired freewheeling scat vocals as the Cuban groove swelled. The new album’s yearning title track was a reminder of how unsentimentally moving this deceptively casual singer can be, and Willie Dixon’s famous My Babe suggested that Stigers might one day even adopt Moses Allison’s role as a protector of authentic American blues.
David Poe’s Everyone Loves Lovers contained a favourite Stigers twist, in being an ostensibly feel-good song that turns dark, while an unflashy account of Bob Dylan’s trenchant Things Have Changed (from The Wonder Boys soundtrack) was a triumphant high point in a show that had plenty not too far behind.