Seattle-based cabaret singer Ben Black's second album deals with a set of tunes, most unfamiliar, that deliver a set of messages about being kinder to each other both as individuals and to society as a whole. The play list has an international flavor with songs from Armenia, Ireland, Japan and Latin America as well as the U. S. Black has a high pitched, but never shrill, tenor which on such songs as the medley of "Old Friend"/"Old Friends" comes close to going an octave higher into the counter range. Irrespective of range or octave, his voice has an out of the ordinary texture about it. Smooth yet at the same time with a slight vibrato, gentle, sensitive and never loud nor raucous, it delivers each tune in such a way that you are compelled to pay attention. Black has an unerring sense of tempo and rhythm as he shows on Jobim's "A Felicidade". He accepts and understands the meaning of the lyrics which he transports to the listener without becoming saccharine or forlorn. Comparing his voice to more prominent vocalists is difficult and can be misleading because of his very special timbre. The closest comparison that comes to mind is a combination of Little Jimmy Scott and Johnny Mathis. The interpretation of the two tunes from South Pacific, especially "Younger Than Springtime", are delivered by Black with as delicate a passion as one will likely ever hear. It's strange to use this comparison with a male singer, but his voice is like rose petals floating in a pool, pretty with gently flowing serenity. In contrast, "Wait Till You See Her comes across as a lilting waltz. Jeff Johnson on bass does some nice solo work on this track. The important piano duties are well shared by Gary Fukushima and Marc Seales. Brenda Kay Neth helps to create distinctive ambiences on four tracks with either her flute or penny whistle. This is a good off the beaten track album that is recommended.
Personnel: Ben Black - Vocal; Gary Fukushima, Marc Seales - Piano; Jeff Johnson - Bass; John Bishop -Drums; Brenda Kay Neth - Flute/Penny Whistle