Take a deep breath. Whether or not Sidney Jacobs came up with the somewhat offbeat title of this album (originally the property of Gladys Knight and the Pips) is irrelevant. What would matter is that there is a clear line of sonic and stylistic descent from Al Jarreau to Jacobs. Fans of Jarreau's style are going to enjoy Jacobs. He operates in a lower register and, all respect to Jarreau, with the same authority and, if anything, more power. Years ago, there were late night broadcast vehicles for singers like Jacobs, usually backed by potent, swinging bands that ran the gamut from soul to fusion. As late as the 1990s, you could have spent a great evening with these artists. Word got around, and reputations blossomed.
Times change, and so do styles, but talent is always an asset. If you sometimes hear some nod to Jarreau or to Jon Hendricks or Bobby McFerrin, well, be happy. Jacobs manages to channel all of them in different proportions, while adding a distinctively original element of his own. He does not sound like others, exactly, but he will put you in mind of them. There are allusions to Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Anita Baker. Maybe a touch of Donna Summer too.
There are some deeply engaging tracks in this performance, standards, like "On a Clear Day." But even when multitracked on "Like a Star" or Jacobs' unusual take (the Nnenna Freelon arrangement) of "I Feel Pretty," where the rhythm section cooks nicely, Jacobs draws you in. A gaggle of musical talent is backing Jacobs, so the entire production may have an "alternate" feel, but the scatted choruses create a genuine conversation, one that runs the gamut from Saturday night sexy to Sunday morning sanctified in "I'm Coming Back" or "Until You Come Back to Me." Love and loss is as much a part of this recording as it was in any Philly or Motown production, all the effects ("Human Typography") tossed in notwithstanding.
Only Jacobs can tell a listener what "Conversations with Mom" is about, although it is dedication. Up for something different, but mostly musical? Unconventional title for an unconventional but winning mélange.
We All; On A Clear Day; Facts; Weave The Tale; Stay Up; Like A Star; Know; I Feel Pretty; I'm Coming Back; Until You Come Back to Me; Human Typography; Been So Long; Light; A Little Bit; If I Were You Woman; Conversations With Mom.
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