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Four Vocalists: Clifton Davis, Tania Grubbs,, CeCe Gable, Samoa Wilson

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These are four recent vocal releases that all deserve attention.

Clifton Davis
Never Can Say Goodbye
Self Produced
2020

Clifton Davis is known variously as a singer, actor and licensed minister but he is also a successful songwriter, his most famous tune being "Never Can Say Goodbye," an early hit for the Jackson Five. That is one of the songs he sings on this release where he is accompanied by, among others, the Beegie Adair Trio, a string section and, on "Never Can Say Goodbye" itself, the vocal group Take 6. Despite the lush background music the major draw here is Davis' voice, a buttery baritone with a rich high end that makes his singing really affecting. His work on "The Folks Who Live On The Hill" is poignant and he cruises with flair through the samba rhythms of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Somewhere In The Hills" with Adair's piano really sparkling. Davis also does a charming duet with Monica Ramey on "Two For The Road" and, reflecting his religious side, a moving, self-written hymn, "Leaving It Up To You," that he performs with soulful dignity.

Tania Grubbs Quintet
Live At Maureen's Jazz Cellar
Maureen's Jazz Cellar
2020

This is a live set recorded at Maureen's Jazz Cellar in Nyack, New York by Tania Grubbs, a singer with a strong, flavorful voice that carries a slight echo of Joni Mitchell. Grubbs sings songs from a variety of sources here. She does familiar pop and jazz standards, songs by well-known singer-songwriters and even an Emily Dickinson poem, "Hope Is A Thing With Feathers." Her voice is versatile enough to do convincing vocalese on "Ornithology," soar hauntingly on "The Peacocks" and Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire" and seductively sway through Neil Young's :Harvest Moon."

Grubbs' quintet, featuring David Budway on piano and Ron Affif on guitar, consistently adapts to her singing needs. It gives her voice a strong platform and occasionally throws in special arrangements like a restless pulsing rhythm on "Bird On A Wire," a bright samba groove for the Dickinson poem, and gritty honky tonk blues on "Don't Take Your Love From Me."

CeCe Gable
More Than A Song
Self Produced
2020

The selection of songs on CeCe Gable's CD mostly come out of the usual jazz singer's repertoire but she performs the tunes with a breathy intimacy that makes them come alive. She has some of the endearing girlishness of Sheila Jordan which shows best in her playful duet with bassist Harvie S on "What Is This Thing Called Love." Elsewhere she is very good, leaning into the slow romance of "I Thought About You" and riding the brisk, up-tempo beat of "My Shining Hour," both with Roni Ben-Hur comping expertly behind her on guitar. Brian Landrus adds his excellent baritone sax and bass clarinet skills to several tracks, burrowing merrily through a fast "It's Alright With Me" and moaning soothingly on a languid "Detour Ahead."

Samoa Wilson with the Jim Kweskin Band
I Just Want To Be Horizontal
Kingswood
2020

Samoa Wilson has been singing with Jim Kweskin for the last decade and she fits right into the stew of old-time jazz, blues, and ragtime that Kweskin has been purveying since the Sixties. Her voice has a easy swing and knowing sass that is slightly reminiscent of a past female Kweskin singer, Maria Muldaur. However her voice has its own mature, lived-in beauty. Here she sings everything from up-tempo swing on "I Cried For You" and "Me Myself and I" to naughty blues on "Kitchen Man" and "The Candy Man" convincingly but she is best when riding like velvet over the Hawaiian guitars of "At Ebb Tide" and the lazy blues feeling of "I Just Want To Be Horizontal." Other highlights of the set include Kweskin's own occasional, gruff but good-humored singing and a sweet version of the Danny Kaye song "Inch Worm," featuring a mix of mandolin, accordion and alto saxophone.

Tracks and Personnel

Never Can Say Goodbye

Tracks: I've Never Been In Love Before; Never Can Say Goodbye; Two for the Road; Swept Away; The Folks Who Live on the Hill; Too Marvelous; So Many Stars; Comecar de Novo; Somewhere in the Hills; Teach Me Tonight; Minha Alma; Leaving It Up to You.

Personnel: Clifton Davis: vocals; Beegie Adair: piano; Roger Spencer: trio arrangements & bass: Chris Brown: drums: Monica Ramey: vocals (3); Jeff Taylor: accordion; Mark Kibble: background vocals and vocal arrangements; Take 6: background vocals (2); Kevin Toney: synth strings & string arrangements; Charles Mims: string arrangements, synth & sweetening; Esession Strings: string production; Pablo Hopenhayn: strings producer, arranger, violins/violas; Pablo Saltzmann: string arranger; Paula Pomeraniec: cello.

Live At Maureen's Jazz Club

Tracks: A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Bird On A Wire; Love; Peace; Hope Is A Thing With Feathers; Ornithology; The Peacocks (A Timeless Place); Autumn; Harvest Moon; I Remember; Wichita Lineman; Don't Take Your Love From Me.

Personnel: Tania Grubbs: vocals; David Budway: piano; Jeff Grubbs: bass; James Johnson III: drums; Ron Affif: guitar.

More Than A Song

Tracks: East Of The Sun; As Long As I Live; Love Is A Necessary Evil; I Thought About You; My Shining Hour; What Is This Thing Called Love; It's Alright With Me; Fotografia; I Concentrate On You; Detour Ahead.

Personnel: CeCe Gable: vocals; Roni Ben-Hur: guitar; Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Harvie S: bass; Sylvia Cuenca: drums.

I Just Want To Be Horizontal

Tracks: After You've Gone; (I Just Want To Be) Horizontal; Trust In Me; I Cried For You; The Candy Man; Inch Worm; That's Life I Guess; Until The Real Thing Comes Along; Me, Myself and I; Our Love Is Here To Stay; Kitchen Man; At Ebb Tide; Lover Come Back To Me; Easy To Love; He Ain't Got Rhythm; I Wished On The Moon; Someone Turned The Moon Upside Down.

Personnel: Samoa Wilson: vocals; Jim Kweskin: vocals, fingerpicking & rhythm guitar; Titus Vollmer: lead & rhythm guitar, Hawaiian slide guitar; ukulele; Mike Davis: trumpet, cornet; Paloma Ohm: alto saxophone; Dennis Lichtman: clarinet, fiddle, mandolin, alto sax (15); Sonny Barbato: piano, accordion; Matthew Berlin: bass; Jeff Brown: drums; Sean Read, Maddie Read Clarke: backup harmony (12).

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