Curtis Stigers, a former rock singer, is probably most famous for having a song on the soundtrack album of The Bodyguard
. You Inspire Me
is his third album since he got a haircut and joined the Concord label. Upon first listen the record doesn't stand out, but after repeated play it's become a favorite.
Stigers' singing is similar to that of Lyle Lovett, with speaking occassionally interspersed in the stream. His is something of a whiskey voice, and he has difficulty sustaining a note. His style is usually effortless, though not as much as Mose Allison's. His backup musicians are very good, starting with piano and organ player Larry Goldings. Also included are drummer Matt Wilson, perhaps most famous for his work with Bill Mays, and bassist Ben Allison. Joining the trio on a few songs are David Tronzo on electric slide guitar and John Sneider on trumpet.
The 63-minute album is made up of twelve songs, ten of which are post-British Invasion pop songs which Stigers believes are worthy of standards status. All songs are played in a jazz style, with the instrumentalists, rather than Stigers, contributing most of the jazz element. The Beatles' "I Feel Fine" offers an interesting jazz syncopation to a rock song. Joe Jackson's "Fools in Love" swings, with a good trumpet solo. Waylon Jennings' country tune "Crazy Moon" features both guitar and sax. The Loving Spoonful's "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind" is even more humorous than the original version, with Dave Tronzo's guitar offering a Sonny Sharrock-esque solo and Goldings' piano a New Orleans Professor Longhair beat.
Goldings moves to the organ on a dirgelike rendition of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice." He uses thick chords in the manner Georgie Fame would employ. Billy Joel's "She's Got a Way" features a sax solo by Stigers that is as good as his singing. The Kinks' "So Tired of Waiting for You" is performed like a lounge act, with scat singing and an up tempo piano solo following the mid tempo verse.
Two recognized standards are included. "I Fall in Love Too Easily" again features Goldings' thick chords on the organ, as well as a memorable dissonant sax solo by Stigers. The happiness of the lyrics of "Blue Skies" is disregarded, and the song is sung in a very melancholy manner, without bass and drums.
Although the solos are brief, Stigers isn't afraid to let the band outshine him. The musicians are frequently doing things more interesting than he is. And that's not a bad thing.
Note: this enhanced CD also includes a six-minute interview with Stigers and Goldings which can be played on a computer.
Personnel: Curtis Stigers (voice, tenor sax),
Larry Goldings (piano, organ),
Matt Wilson (drums),
Ben Allison (bass),
David Tronzo (guitar),
John Sneider (trumpet).