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Sidney Jacobs: First Man

Dan Bilawsky By

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Sidney Jacobs: First Man Call this R&B-inflected jazz, jazz-informed soul, or soul-soaked singer-songwriter fare with a chaser of standards and surprises. You can take your pick, as all of those descriptors are basically on the money. But it doesn't really matter how you tag this. It's fine music by any name.

Sidney Jacobs' second album, following the under-the-radar Been So Long (Self Produced, 2013), puts this vocalist's fantastically fervent pipes in the proper light. His sound evokes shades of his earliest inspiration—the late Al Jarreau—but he's developed his own voice that's beholden to no single source or influence. Whether joyfully crooning atop his own creations, visiting the music of Richard Rodgers, or dipping into hip-hop or vintage soul, Jacobs manages to put his own firm stamp and personality on this material.

As a trained psychologist, Jacobs knows a thing or two about communicating, listening, and digging into the human psyche, all of which is evident in the way he expresses himself throughout this date. "First Man"—a theoretical acknowledgement that we all come from the same place if we go back far enough—makes that clear early on. The African undercurrent in the piece, embodied by Jacobs' wordless vocals and Justin Thomas ' mbira-like marimba work, serves as a backdrop for Jacobs' passionate presentation. It's the first of many originals in the set, but one that stays with you for the duration.

The singer's penchant for jazz waltzes underscores several of the selections that follow—"Last Night," an alternately foreboding and friendly take on the familiar "My Favorite Things," the Burt Bacharach-esque "Say What You Will"—and a seemingly odd yet complementary collection of covers enriches the mix. Bill Withers' "Lonely Town, Lonely Street" is right in Jacobs' wheelhouse, Kendrick Lamar's "You Ain't Got To Lie" retains its innate slickness while also moving into a more organic realm, "The Good Life" succeeds with a wonderfully spare arrangement that leans on bassist Zephyr Avalon, and James Taylor's "Secret O' Life" ends the album on an intimate note, with nothing but Josh Nelson's piano and Jacobs' voice in the picture.

Through First Man, Sidney Jacobs manages to present as a confident musical force while also highlighting the confessional aspects of his artistry and personality. He's got a lot to say and he says it in with grace, strength, compassion, and pride. Getting to know this man and his music is time well spent.

Track Listing: First; First Man; Last Night; Undercurrent; My Favorite Things; Sabine's Grind; Fly; The Story Teller; Lonely Town Lonely Street; Say What You Will; You Ain't Gotta Lie; The Good Life; The Love Within You; Long Walk; Secret O' Life.

Personnel: Sidney Jacobs: vocals; Zephyr Avalon: acoustic bass, electric bass; Efa Etoroma Jr.: drums, percussion; Michael Jarvey: piano, electric piano, viola; Josh Johnson: alto saxophone; Wendell Kelly" trombone; Josh Nelson: piano; Greg Poree: acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Cathy Seggal-Garcia: vocals; Nolan Shaheed: trumpet; Justin Thomas: vibraphone, marimba; Francesco Canas: violin.

Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Vocal


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