How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
If you're going to go after the Great American Songbookthat is, music by Gershwin, Strayhorn, Mancini, and the likeyou'd better bring some style and distinction to the table. San Francisco-based vocalist Mark Robinson does just that, indeed he does, with Some Small Dive, serving up his personal interpretations of a bunch of time-tested classics.
He's got it all: emotional depth, distinctive phrasingoccasionally a tad off-kilter, but never distractingly soand a pure and unaffected straightforward zest of delivery. He's a vocalist obviously in love with the task he's taken on.
The disc's title is taken from a line in Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life": "I'll live a lush life, In some small dive..." You could call that tune the highlight, but the set is full of them: Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses," "A Ghost of a Chance," the Gershwins' "Embraceable You," the Henry "Sweets" Edison/Jon Hendricks gem "Centerpiece." For comparisons, Robinson's vocal style is similar to Hendricks', with a bit more buoyancy in the sound.
A beautiful surprise here is Antonio Carlos Jobim's gentle masterpiece "Waters of March." Most vocalists who cover this tune go with the Joao Gilberto hush, but Robinson puts some beef into his rendition, without losing the delicacy. Pianist David Austin works the keys with a tinkling fragility, making for a perfect accompanist/vocalist contrast.
Like the very best in this gameSinatra or Tony BennettRobinson makes it all sound so effortless on this truly superb vocal jazz outing.
Track Listing: East of the Sun; Days of Wine and Roses; I've Got the World on a String; Close Your Eyes; A
Ghost of a Chance; I'll Remember You; Lush Life; Embraceable You; I Keep Coming Back to
Joe's; Just Friends; I'm Thru With Love; Waters of March; Centerpiece.
Personnel: Mark Robinson: vocals; David Austin: piano; Bob Blankenship: drums; Jeffrey Burr: guitar;
Noel Jewkes: tenor saxophone; Mark Williams: bass.