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Straight Ahead is Canadian born and Vancouver resident Kenny Colman's second album for Justin Time. This latest effort concentrates on more upbeat and jazzy material than his first which leaned toward easy listening. Colman has garnered several good jazz musicians to make this a swinging affair. With a voice and style somewhere in between the raspy Tony Bennett's and the purer sounds of Andy Williams, Colman does justice to a set of 15 tunes, mostly standards and Tin Pan Alley favorites. There's no doubt that the instrumentalists chosen to be with Colman on this session go a long way towards making this album attractive. Colman is not in the same class as a Bennett, Frank Sinatra or Mel Torme who sound good irrespective of who's backing them. Colman gets all the help he can needs from these good musicians as well as fresh arrangements from Miles Black.
The session gets a notable kick off with a rousing version of "Come Rain or Come Shine" with Houston Person's high voltage tenor moving Colman along on a fine rendition of this chestnut. Person is on several other cuts enhancing them considerably with his presence, like "That's Al"l and "It's All Right with Me". Guitarist Oliver Gannon is also a major star providing clean stringed backing for the singer throughout the session. It's on the up tempo material where Colman excels. On the some of the ballads, like Last Tango in Paris and My Funny Valentine, where his voice wavers and he seems to lose his way. One exception is an outstanding duet with Montreal based jazz diva Ranee Lee in "Dream Dancing". Brad Turner with trumpet and flugelhorn does some significant soloing on such tunes as "Why Should I Care" one of whose composers was Clint Eastwood. But then Colman engages in some Leon Thomas-like jazz warbling on "I'll Remember April" which is not a good idea.
Colman has been on the vocal scene since the 1960's having gigged from New York to Las Vegas. He dodged the ultimate bullet when he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in 1985. A second examination revealed that the first diagnosis was incorrect. On this album, he takes full advantage of his reprieve with an overall acceptable effort, the shortcomings with ballads notwithstanding. Given the shortage of good male singers these days Colman's latest entry helps fill in some of the blanks.
Track Listing: Come Rain or Come Shine$; Sweet Pumpkin; The Way You Look Tonight; Last Tango in Paris*; Dream Dancing#*; There Will Never Be Another You; Why Should I Care; I'll Remember April; It's All Right with Me$; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?; I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good); I Wanna Be in Love Again; The Good Life$; My Funny Valentine$; That's All$
Personnel: Kenny Colman, Ranee Lee# - Vocals; Miles Black - Piano/Arranger/Musical Director; Dave Young - Bass; Brian Kirk - Drums; Houston Person$, Tom Keenlyside - Tenor Sax; Brad Turner - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Oliver Gannon - Guitar; Jack Duncan* - Percussion