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There's a lyric in the old Kenny Rogers pop tune, "The Gambler" that states: "You've got to know when to hold and know when to fold." Now vocalist Jeffrey Gimble's debut CD Beyond Up High isn't a gamblewell, perhaps it is a bit as he enters the highly uncertain world of the male jazz singer, but, given this enjoyable effort, Gimble's gamble just might pay off.
The debut CD from this Texas-born and now Bay Area actor-turned-recorded vocalist frames Gimble across a diverse selection of formats. Backed by a swinging rhythm section and L.A. studio saxophonist Bob Sheppard, the material here includes the obligatory GAS standards, pop hits, a bossa nova, and a catchy Gimble original. While all are fine performances, the real meat here is on the selections where Gimble reaches into his vast emotional bag of tricks and spins energy and vivid emotional currency into more involved material.
Across the session, Gimble demonstrates significant energy and rhythmic flair, if not an overpowering vocal instrument. His tenor voice has rich higher overtone qualities and resonant lower sonorities. His overall delivery and phrasing are very good and he swings exceptionally well ("Hum Drum Blues," "Sweet and Lovely"), although his scatting seems a bit forced.
In a way, this vocal set-up is ideal for the more involved selections where Gimble shines (Chick Corea's "High Wire/The Aerialist" "Creatures"). Where melody and lyric dynamic predominate, namely, the romantic ballad, Gimble is more reserved ("Windmills of Your Mind"). With his significant theatrical chops, Gimble brings fine shading to the more complex lyric/melody dynamic. That, combined with his beat chops are certainly his wheelhouse. So, he's more Mark Murphy
although Gimble does indeed channel Elling. That's not a bad compare first time in the studio.
Pianist Tamir Hendelman is superb backing Gimble, showing tons of technical and supportive chops. Ditto for bassist Ryan McGillicuddy and drummers Dean Koba and Zach Harmon. Sheppard's tenor and soprano soar each foray.
All things considered, Beyond Up High presents a well-performed introduction to an artist with significant talent and flair. AfterBeyond Up High "Gambler" Gimble is definitely playing with house money. Bet on it.
Track Listing: Sweet and Lovely; Hum Drum Blues; High Wire/The Aerialist; Rainy Days; It Only Happens When I Dance With You; Agua de Beber; Creatures; The Windmills of Your Mind; Ain't No Sunshine; All The Things You Are (Things About You).
Personnel: Jeffrey Gimble: vocals; Tamir Hendelman: piano; Ryan McGillicuddy: bass; Bob Sheppard: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Dean Koba: drums; Zach Harmon: drums (4-6, 10).