How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Those of us who know better laughed, snickered, recently, when we read that Harlem-based vocalist extraordinaire Mansur Scott was a "rising star." We will agree that he is definitely a "star" because he always shines when he sings. His first album, Sometimes Forgotten Sometimes Remembered (Pao Records, 2010), was excellent and caught the attention of a great deal of music lovers. His latest recording, Great Voices Of Harlem (Pao Records) includes two other singers, Gregory Porter
Porter, he of the velvety-heavily- church influenced chops, who is one of hottest acts on the scene now, sings blissfully on three tunes: "Moanin," "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "Mona Lisa." Donald Smith, an immensely talented and gifted vocalist and pianist, one of the many unsung and unheralded heroes of music, sounds wonderful on an updated version of his brother Lonnie Liston Smith
's "Expansions," which asked the listener to "Expand your mind, so we can all live in peace." Smith also does a masterful job on "My One And Only Love." But, on this soulful, thought-provoking, CD, Mansur Scott is the one that stands out. After all, his distinctive, hearty voice is on seven of the twelve cuts on this Austrian-recorded, must-get album of mostly standards, and well-used tunes.
Scott's intro on Horace Silver's "Peace" begins with the words: shalom, salaam, and peace. Then he sings the lyrics with his one and only superb vocal twists and turn, and from that moment on he sets the pace for the entire earthy recording session. To say that his treatment of the tune is spell-binding would be an understatement. His voice sounds like a serious call for a peaceful time, and for those of us who know him know that's how he answers the phone. He doesn't say hello, he says "Peace."
Mansur is also outstanding on the classic Horace Silver composition "Song For My Father," on the bluesy ballad "Stella By Starlight, as well as the upbeat "Days Of Wine And Roses." The band, the Austrian-based Paul Zauner Blue Band, backs him up quite nicely with serious solos from all the band members, especially the saxophonist Kelmens Pliems. But, it is his story telling on "Doing Hard Time," that is one of the high points of Great Voices Of Harlem. Nothing beats personal experience or a heart-tugging story. Mansur's tale is his and his alone but, it could also be yours is the message behind the madness of working on a prison chain gang.
In other words, there is a lesson to be learned and Mansur doesn't mind telling it, especially if it might help humanity. His vehicle is his voice and "Doing Hard Time" works well on those who choose to listen.
Track Listing: Moanin'; Intro Peace; Peace; Expansions; Somewhere Over The
Rainbow; Doing Hard Time; Stella by Starlight; Watermelon Man; My One
and Only Love; Days of Wine and Roses; Mona Lisa; Song For My Father.
Personnel: Howard Curtis: drums; Wolfram Derschmidt: bass; Barni Girlinger:
flugelhorn, trumpet; Klemens Pliem: flute (alto), sax(tenor); Gregory
Porter: primary artist, vocals; Martin Reiter: keyboards, piano; Mansur
Scott: primary artist, vocals; Donald Smith: piano, primary artist,
vocals; Paul Zauner: leader, trombone.
Larry Reni Thomas is a 30-year veteran writer/radio announcer based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who has worked at seven radio stations and whose journalistic work has appeared in downbeat and The New York Times Magazine.