Male jazz singers – should I be genderising on International Woman's Day? – are a strange breed. Taking the current top three (perm as you will): Kurt Elling, Gregory Porter and Ian Shaw have almost as many detractors as they have devotees. Such is the individuality of their approach that their voices are immediately identifiable and the love/hate relationship is almost inevitable. None of them are crooners in the sense that Bublé, Connick Jr. or Bennett are or that Sinatra, Como, Dino and Monro were; rather they are voices that have found a new direction and, as we know, trailblazers take time to hit universal paydirt.
In the case of Shaw, whom I've heard live on several occasions, you know that when he's on stage you are in for an evening of fun, great jazz piano, superb singing as well as some politically slanted humour. He's the real deal.
However, on disc he is perhaps more vulnerable. It took me several listens to fully latch on to what he was doing. The leaps from basso to falsetto didn't gel with me and, at times, I was reminded of a contemporary version of Noel Coward but, as the disc progressed, I found myself mellowing and – believe it or not – by the final track I couldn't wait to play it again!
In fairness, it also has to be said that Bellamy's tenor sax and Safir's piano equally contributed to my enjoyment and the ultimate success of the album.
The second time round (love is lovelier, they say!) What's New? came across as the beautiful ballad that it is and the mix of pops and gassers sounded just right for this trio – bass and drums? Who needs 'em?!
If there's a YouTube link check out Prelude to a Kiss (ah for the days when you went into a store and listened before you made your mind up).
Better still, nip down to Leeds on March 19 where they play Seven Arts or hang about until Sept 26 when they are at Scarborough Jazz Festival &ndassh; so near and yet so far…