It's A Good Thing
Unity Music 2517
Street Date: June 13, 2006
Jazz vocalist Jamie Davis, a veteran of the Count Basie Orchestra, confirms his position in the pantheon of great male vocalists that have sung with that esteemed ensemble on It's A Good Thing, a world class recording featuring the superb singer fronting a first rate big band, made up of members of the Basie organization and some of Los Angeles' finest instrumentalists, conducted by Shelly Berg. Produced by legendary Sly and the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico, It's A Good Thing combines swinging arrangements of pop hits by Stevie Wonder and George Harrison with a satisfying mix of Great American Songbook standards and bebop, bossa, ballads and blues.
Blessed with a deep, dark rich voice nurtured in the Pentecostal church, Davis exhibits the influence of the late greats Joe Williams and Lou Rawls, among others, in his own highly personal style. Singing with an authoritative tone, impeccable diction and seemingly effortless swing, Davis has the kind of sound that will have listeners begging for more. The deluxe package also includes a DVD, The Making of It's A Good Thing", that documents the joyous proceedings that produced this remarkable recording.
The date opens with Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely" arranged in the classic Basie style by Aaron Lington, an alumnus of the University of North Texas renowned One O'clock Lab Band. Davis sails smoothly over the orchestra, propelled by the Basie rhythm section of pianist Tony Suggs, guitarist Will Matthews, bassist James Leary III and drummer Butch Miles, singing with all the aplomb of a master who is completely comfortable in the company of equally talented artists. Basie trumpeter Scotty Barnhart, inspired by the vocalist's performance, weighs in with a wailing exuberant solo of his own that sets the bar high for the rest of the date.
George Harrison's Something" may seem like an unlikely selection for a big band date, but Lington's relaxed rhythmic arrangement of the beautiful Beatles ballad makes it sound like it was written just for this orchestra, with Davis's distinctive phrasing making the piece his own. Matthews' guitar keeps the medium tempo churning and piano and tenor saxophone solos add the finishing touches to this curious addition to the jazz canon.
Allyn Ferguson's orchestration of Harold Arlen's I've Got The World On A String" finds the band in familiar Basie territory with Davis showing his bluesy Joe Williams roots with an occasional gravel voiced nod in the direction of the father of all jazz singers, Louis Armstrong. Jamie's flawless delivery flows easily into a soulful tenor solo, contrasting nicely with Barnhart's blaring trumpet that follows, just before the singer digs in for a big finish.
Cole Porter's Night and Day," freshly arranged by Tom Hart, opens with a loping introduction built around Tony Suggs' slow piano ostinato and the band's legato horns. Davis comes in singing the classic lyric with the band gradually shifting into a straight ahead swing. Voice and horns establish a call and response pattern and the rhythm section keeps things moving.
Hart's orchestration of Besame Mucho," reminiscent of Gil Evans' Sketches of Spain arrangements for Miles Davis, features Malo and Santana percussionists Karl Perazzo and Tony Menjivar supplying the Latin groove, anchored by Errico's claves. Jamie's passionate reading of the Consuelo Velazquez classic is tantalizingly romantic. Shelly Berg and Tony Suggs switch chairs on this one, offering Berg an opportunity to demonstrate his wonderful abilities as a sensitive pianist.
Jamie's rendition of Rodgers and Hart's My Funny Valentine," lusciously arranged by Basie trumpeter Bob Ojeda, reaffirms the singer's unsurpassed skill as a balladeer that he clearly demonstrated on his debut release It's All About Love. Once again, Berg takes over the piano chair for another beautiful excursion across the keyboard.
Thelonious Monk's Straight No Chaser," arranged by Marcus Shelby, gives Davis a chance to show off his bop chops. The singer starts off scatting a slow duet at the top of his range over bassist James Leary's big bottom, with the two continuing together through the first chorus of the hip Jon Hendricks lyric. The band comes in dramatically and saxophones and trumpets solo with abandon, stretching out over the riffing horn sections driven by Miles's pulsing rhythm. A trombone blows over a walking bass line before Davis takes things out with an ironic finish.
My Kinda Love" features Davis on another Tom Hart arrangement in the classic Basie mold. The singer takes his time on this one, stretching out the words with his rich full bodied voice for dramatic effect. The Roger Glenn flute interlude recalls the wonderful sound of Frank Wess on some of Thad Jones and Frank Foster's superior arrangements for the Count.
Shelly Berg's bright arrangement of Steve Wonder's Another Star" is another one of the date's many highlights. Davis sings the well known words with flowing authority, while Berg and the band pull out all the stops on this track, which brings together the worlds of jazz and pop in the finest fashion.
On Every Day I Have The Blues" Davis emphatically demonstrates his place as the rightful heir to the throne once held by the master Joe Williams. Jamie pays homage to his hero with a swinging straightforward reading of the late great Basie vocalist's signature song, arranged here by Bob Ojeda.
A favorite of singers through the ages, Ray Noble's The Very Thought Of You" has been covered by everyone from Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra and (most famously) Johnny Hartman. Jamie's immaculate annunciation emphasizes the beauty of the cleverly constructed lyric, making this version, arranged by Ojeda, an excellent addition to the many that came before it.
The date closes with a rousing rendition of Alright Okay You Win," another Joe Williams classic from the Basie book, arranged by Bob Ojeda. Everyone wins on this rocking feature for the singer and the band. The section work is magnificently smooth with plenty of room for horn solos and the latest Basie All American rhythm section shows that when it comes to swinging, there's no better team in contemporary music. Davis himself proves that in the matter of singing in front of a big band he is without equal today.
Great male vocalists have been few and far between in jazz, with one singer generally dominating each generation. Without a great deal of recognition Jamie Davis has honed his skills so that he can now confidently step into the role as the dominant voice of his day. Basie trumpeter Scotty Barnhart, a man who knows his way around music as well as anyone says of this date, From the very first note of whatever you put on, I guarantee you'll feel better from listening to it." One would be hard put to argue with him. Just one listen to the sound of Jamie Davis and you'll agree. It's a very good thing.