E. J. Decker probably could write a book if they asked himhis shaping influences and history of musical collaborations (not to mention social activism) would make it a fascinating one indeedbut it would be so much nicer to hear him sing it. A voice smooth as, well, velvet (pardon the obvious simile) lets him put a rich soulful stamp on anything from that Great American Songbook to classic rock or folk. For this long-in-coming labor of love, though, it's all about shining a light on the oft-overlooked Arthur Prysock: a dim smoky blue light, of course, preferably accompanied by a dry martini.
Bluer Than Velvet should do a service in nudging more listeners to remember or discover Prysock's R&B croon, though Decker's similarly cozy deep baritone lets this affair stand most appealingly on its own. The set consists of classic standards mellowed like a well-aged whiskey, unspooling at the easy pace of a wee-hours lounge set to ease the crowd through last call and last drinks. Most were Prysock staples, though Decker also throws in a couple others he never recordeda lightly jaunty "On the Street Where You Live" making one album's highlightwhich still fit the program like a glove.
As Decker's drawl ekes the life and love out of each syllable, the band lightly swings in style just as tasteful to match. Enticing trombone and baritone sax complement his low register with smooth shades of cabaret and blues; they and the dreamy piano and rhythm section could have stepped straight out of a lush Blue Note session from the 1950s. The themes lean on the wistful sidenote the choice of "What a Difference a Day Made," featuring the song's mature side alongside a couple autumnal titlesyet there's a fair share of smiles too. Whatever the song or the mood, count on Decker to deliver it in a way all his own.
You Had Better Change Your Ways; Autumn in New York; What a Difference a Day Made; Blue Velvet; Why Can't You Behave?; Since I Fell for You; It's Too Late (Baby Too Late); When You Walked In the Room; He Loves and She Loves; When I Fall in Love; On the Street Where You Live; I Could Write a Book; (I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance; September in the Rain.
E.J. Decker: vocals; Claire Daly: baritone sax; Chris Bergson: guitar; Les Kurtz: piano; Elizabeth Frascoia: trombone; Saadi Zain: bass; Tom Melito: drums.