JAMIE DAVIS: Vibe Over Perfection (Label: Unity Music)

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JAMIE DAVIS: Vibe Over Perfection

Jamie Davis is one of a dying breed – a true, big band jazz singer who carries the flame championed by the like of Johnny Hartman, Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Williams, Big Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing. Like all those past masters, San Francisco’s Davis knows how to make his material swing and when his soulful vocals are supported by a sympathetic big band, there are fewer sounds more satisfying in modern popular music. Here the band – made up chiefly of players that go on the road as the Count Basie Orchestra – is magnificent and on a varied selection of tunes taken from the great American song book (old and new), singer and players do create the elusive and magical vibe implied in the LP’s title. Familiar standards like ‘Pennies From Heaven’ and ‘Blue Skies’ swing like they’ve rarely swung before while on modern pop classics – like Burt Bacharach’s ‘The Look Of Love’ – Davis forces you to look at the tune in a whole new way. Soul collectors will need to grab a listen too to the reworking of Lou Rawls’ ever-lovely ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’. Faster, bigger and much brasher than the original, it proves that a good, well-crafted song will always satisfy, intrigue and reveal new nuances no matter what its setting. The most remarkable cut here though is a version of Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’. Often (and many would say rightly) the song is dismissed as maudlin and overwrought but Aaron Lington’s arrangement creates an appropriate level of sensitivity without resort to cloying sentimentality. The other featured songs are the jazz standard ‘Round Midnight’, the blues classic ‘I’m Going To Move To The Outskirts Of Town’, the perennial ‘Nature Boy’ and Sly Stone’s ‘If You Want Me To Stay’. In 1968 the great Jackie Wilson recorded a remarkable album with Count Basie; if you liked that – I’m confident that you’ll dig this one too.
(BB) 4/5