P>Bob Stewart's third album for the VWC label is a compilation of two sessions recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder studios in 1986 and 1990. Stewart is a bit of an anomaly on today's singing scene in that he is a saloon singer, which can be best described as the male counterpart of the female cabaret singer. He has those mannerisms go with this style of singing, like the small, extra surprise vocal annotations appended to the end of a tune. Listen to "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" to see how his individuality can add something special to an otherwise familiar and oft recorded tune. It's not that Stewart has incorporated unnecessary affectations to his singing, but there's just enough "tricks" to add some seasoning to the song. His delivery reflects the influence of the great male vocalists like Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, and Frank Sinatra (hear Sinatra's influence in "Alone Together"). Nonetheless, there are aspects about Stewart's singing which are uniquely his own; one of them is the way he interacts with the musicians who are backing him. His voice works as an integral part of the group, rather than apart from it, as evidenced in his interplay with Mel Lewis' brushes on "Skylark" and on an up tempo version of "Secret Love."
For this session, Stewart has surrounded himself with outstanding jazz players. Frank Wess' tenor complements Stewart on several tunes, but it is especially telling on "Body and Soul." His flute flutters behind Stewart on "Don't Misunderstand" which is one of the two cuts with string arrangements, the other being "Did I Remember." These two are the most dramatic performances on the disc. Ubiquitous bassist Michael Moore and Lewis provide a solid foundation for the session. However, it is master jazz pianist Hank Jones who makes this album work, gleaming in a role he has occupied many times over his long career as the pianist behind the singer. Right from the first cut "September in the Rain" to the album's coda "In a Sentimental Mood," Jones sets the stage for Stewart's vocal interpretations. He also gets several solo opportunities, as on "Close Your Eyes" and "Alone Togther." With a play list of 14 solid standards, along with Stewart's strong but understated reading of the material and the presence of fine musicians, Take Two is an album which belongs in the collection of every lover of the jazz vocal.
Tracks:September in the Rain; Skylark; What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Body and Soul; Never Let Me Go; Close Your Eyes; Don't Misunderstand; Day in Day Out; Alone Together; Secret Love; Did I Remember; If You Could See Me Now; Speak Low; In a Sentimental Mood
Personnel: Bob Stewart - Vocals; Frank Wess - Tenor Sax/Flute; Michael Moore - Bass; Mel Lewis - Drums; The Perricone Strings