How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
In his debut recording on Philadelphia's home-grown jazz label, Encounter Records, vocalist-or maybe more appropriately vocalesist-Ken Shepherd proves that scat singing isn't exclusively the domain of relatively few male singers such as Jon Hendricks or Kurt Elling. Au contraire. One needs only to attend some of the IAJE vocal performances and/or clinics to realize that interest in jazz singing is budding, and in many cases blossoming, throughout the country.
Ken Shepherd is in full bloom as he finally gets the chance to let listeners beyond the Philadelphia environs realize his talent. Plumber by day, jazz singer by night (for who can really make a living as a jazz singer without the backing of a major label like Verve?), Shepherd tackles Hank Mobley's bop lines right out of the chute in "Up, Over And Out", trading phrases and cranking up the intensity with saxophonist Ron Sutton.
Contrasting that introduction with "Beautiful Love," the listener realizes that Shepherd is more complex than just scat or vocalese: He sings an affecting ballad as well. Backed by one of the most in-demand rhythm sections in Philadelphia, Shepherd's enthusiasm for his craft shines through in a varied repertoire displaying his influences especially from Eddie Jefferson, but also from Joe Williams and Billy Eckstine as well. While Shepherd's wife thinks his first CD is "worth the wait"-since she's the one who named it-the larger American audience didn't know what it was missing. Now it does, and now it doesn't have to miss an outstanding practitioner of the art of male jazz singing.
Up, Over And Out; Beautiful Love; Blues On The Corner; Trumpet Man; If I Love Again; Body And Soul; With Open Eyes; This One's For You; Skeeter's Kitchen; Lovers' Holiday; Four; Violets For Your Furs
Ken Shepherd, vocals; Eddie Green, piano and synthesizer; Tyrone Brown, bass; Jim Miller, drums; Ron Sutton, alto sax; Duane Eubanks, trumpet
Encounter Records Web Site: http://members.aol.com/dreambox95