James Love: Invitations (2004)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Compared to the number of new female jazz singers recording today, males are definitely underrepresented. For that reason, I tend to keep my ears peeled for new male talent. James Love clearly qualifies: although he has sung for twenty years informally in his hometown of St. Louis and in Boston, where he used to jam with students from the Berklee College of Music and open for artists like Jon Hendricks, Marlena Shaw, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Freddie Hubbard, music has been primary in his life for only about three years, and this is his first recording effort. He is currently based in Los Angeles and gigging in Southern California and along the coast.
Here Love recreates seven standards in about 41 minutes, backed by a totally adequate if not stellar rhythm section and soloists. His voice is a warm, supple and resonant baritone, and he sings with good feeling, control and intonation. His range is fairly impressive, although he knows when not to reach beyond his grasp (passing on four F's at relatively low volume in "Stella By Starlight," for instance, while nailing a couple G's and a bunch of F's perfectly at high volume). His phrasing is natural and comfortable, and his improvisation, smooth and intuitive.
The mystery and intrigue of Bronislaw Kaper's "Invitation" fit Love's full, rich instrument like a fur-lined leather glove. In my view, that selection, "Valentine" and "Stella" are highlights of the CD, the depths of each plumbed with intensity and emotion. The album concludes with a laid-back, gently swinging version of Gary McFarland's "Sack Full of Dreams," its nostalgia enriched by Love's lazy whistling near its conclusion. James Love is a new male jazz vocal talent whose name is well worth remembering. I can assure I will be watching for it on marquees in the Los Angeles area.
Track Listing: Invitation*; The Look of Love*; Blue Moon**; My Funny Valentine**; Stella By Starlight*+; Unforgettable; Sack Full of Dreams+
Personnel: James Love (vocals), Mark Bridges (piano), Ralph Gibson** (tenor sax), Chuck Johnson* (tenor or soprano sax), Charles Small+ (guitar), Wendell Williams (bass), and Cornel Fauler (drums)
Record Label: Jazzin Productions