This week, let's take a look at some videos featuring singer Michael Buble, who will be in St. Louis next Friday, June 25 to perform at the Scottrade Center. Undeniably influenced by Frank Sinatra and, to a lesser extent, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and other tuxedo-clad crooners of the 1950s and 1960s, Buble doesn't really fit the textbook definition of a jazz singer, primarily because he rarely seems to improvise. Think of him more as a pop vocalist who incorporates some jazz elements in his arrangements, often hires jazz players, and mines some of the same standard repertoire.
For example, check the version of Come Fly With Me" up top. It's a big band swing-style arrangement, reminiscent of Sinatra's version but taken at an even quicker tempo. In the first clip down below, Buble sings The Way You Look Tonight" with a small combo in a bossa nova style, letting the guitarist take a short, tasteful solo midway through.
The third clip shows Buble tackling Feeling Good," originally a Broadway song (from the 1960s musical Stop The World, I Want To Get Off) that was famously transformed by Nina Simone into a show-stopper of a different sort. Although Buble's performance here is more dramatic than in either of the first two clips, he wisely stops short of Simone's level of bombastic divatude. Finally, in the fourth clip you can hear Buble dueting with his piano player on the Willie Nelson composition Always On My Mind," which gets a straight ballad treatment.
Buble's vocal performance in all four clips is solid in a technical sense - in tune, on time and well-enunciated, with no obvious indications of any major technological interventions like Auto-Tune (which some accused him of using during a recent show in London). But the performances also seem very carefully worked out in advance, with little left to chance. Buble would seem to have the vocal skills necessary to at least attempt a more improvisational approach, but one can also understand why he'd be loathe to mess with what has proved to be a successful formula.