Reviews of the Curtis Stigers in performance. Read what “the experts” are saying.
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.
Clive Davis – 4 stars
Midway through one song, Curtis Stigers’s microphone fell apart. Luckily, the number happened to be You’re All That Matters to Me, the blue-eyed soul hit that helped define his career a couple of decades ago, so his fans were able to fill in the lyrics without missing a beat. “It happened on the right song, at least,” he quipped, as he toyed with a recalcitrant cable. His stage manner is as droll and quick-witted as the very best stand-up comedian’s.
Wall Street Journal
July 29, 2011
By ANDREW MCKIE
When Curtis Stigers came on stage on Wednesday night it felt as if someone had upped the wattage in the bulbs. It ought to have been no surprise that Mr. Stigers is a competent turn on stage—this is, after all, a man whose first album sold more than 1.5 million copies. But I hadn’t quite been prepared for the sheer brio with which he tears into a crowd. The course of his career, and the chat I had had with him that morning, had given me the impression that this was a man backing away from the limelight.
The Rochester City Paper said this about Curtis at The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival:
“It was day No. 5 and did we ever kick it into overdrive. Curtis Stigers started off my evening at Kilbourn Hall. Opening with Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright’ with a brief stop at ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ Stigers was all kinds of suave. His voice was sharp and seasoned — downright luxurious — and his phrasing was impeccable without being the least bit indulgent. When he wasn’t crooning tunes ‘genetically engineered to make you cry,’ he bopped heavy and cool on the sax. Serious class act here, folks.”
-Rochester City Paper, Rochester, NY
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.
STEPHEN HOLDEN, The New York Times
A lean, pop-jazz hipster whose buzz-saw voice, much like that of Tom Waits, slices away glib sentimentality, Curtis Stigers is not the usual sort of act one finds at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, although he has played there before. (The last time was five years ago.) Depending on your definition he is either a rock ’n’ roll jazz man who plays a honking saxophone that echoes his raw, craggy singing or a jazz-influenced rocker.
Clive Davis, The London Times – November 7, 2008
His visits to Frith Street are becoming something of an institution, and it is easy to understand why. Of all the singers jostling for attention at the moment, Curtis Stigers possesses by far the most winning stage manner.
If some critics still seem reluctant to forgive him his Nineties pop star past (or for those duets with Penny Smith on the reality TV show Just the Two of Us), the American jazz-blues vocalist simply goes about the business of winning converts among listeners who are not weighed down by preconceptions.
Reporter Dana Oland, on vacation in Paris, caught a show Monday by Curtis Stigers at the JVC Jazz Festival Paris
PARIS — Most Boiseans know Curtis Stigers as a jazz singer, songwriter and community activist who supports environmental and social causes.
He’s been a hometown hero since a string of pop hits took him to national fame in the 1990s. His spotlight in the jazz world shines brighter with each concert and album release.
His latest CD, “Real Emotional,” (Concord, $14.99) took him this week to Paris, where he is a respected jazz artist with a growing international reputation.
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.
London Times – Clive Davis
(4 out of 5 stars)
NEARLY 30 years ago (yes, it is almost that long) the Police began smuggling reggae into the charts with I Can’t Stand Losing You. Curtis Stigers, who has embarked on a lengthy run in Soho, takes the same song and turns it into a jazz number without sacrificing any of its vitality. Only the most assured singers could make that transition.
Slowly but surely, the American singer is beginning to receive the attention he deserves. Old habits die hard, and an awful lot of people still tend to think of him as the shaggy-haired purveyor of platinum-selling blue-eyed soul. That was another era, another universe. The modern-day Stigers is sharper and leaner and bears more than a passing resemblance to Morrissey, while his music has evolved on to another plane altogether.
I cannot think of another vocalist who creates such an exuberant combination of bebop artistry and raw emotion. Chicago’s poet-in-residence, Kurt Elling, has more cachet among purists, perhaps, but he lacks the range and extrovert charm. Stigers, on the other hand, has the potential and charisma to become, well, the thinking person’s Michael Buble.
A fair segment of his audience still expects him to sing the old hits, and he duly obliges with I Wonder Why and You’re All That Matters To Me. Otherwise this was another of his uncompromisingly robust straight-ahead sets, with the pianist Matthew Fries, drummer Keith Hall and bassist Phil Palombi supplying immaculate accompaniment. The trio are as smooth and sleek as you could ask, but when grit and grease and a little R&B are required, the musicians are never at a loss. Stigers also adds some suitably punchy saxophone solos.
The programme hurtled in all directions. Willie Dixon’s My Babe shuffled and danced; Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right sneaked in a few Elvis-isms. The lovelorn Elvis Costello-Cait O’Riordan ballad, Baby Plays Around, has been a fixture in his repertoire for some years now, and shows no signs of losing its edge. Even so, it was overshadowed by the delicate, moonstruck emotions of Columbus Avenue, one of the original tunes on the new album, I Think it’s Going to Rain Today. Stigers wears his heart on his sleeve without slipping into sentimentality.
Crazy supplied a winning detour into country and western nostalgia. Mose Allison’s Everybody Cryin’ Mercy, written in the Vietnam era, remains as urgent and compelling as ever. Something for everyone, in other words.