Coated with sugar and filled with swing, Speaking of Love offers a blast from the past as Scott Whitfield scat sings with the enthusiasm of Mel Tormé, introduces a vocal quartet that recalls the Four Freshmen, teams with guest artists Cheryl Bentyne, Bucky Pizzarelli, Marvin Stamm, Memo Acevedo and Scott Robinson, and adds lovely trombone melodies to enhance the romance.
Through original songs and memorable standards, Whitfield brings an upbeat message of good cheer to the forum. His trombone dashes and darts gracefully through casual melodies and invites camaraderie from his sidemen. On "Adagio in Pearl, for example, he introduces the reflective piece with a mellifluous trombone soliloquy and follows later with a velvet interlude that supports the vocal duet between himself and Bentyne quite well.
Trumpeter Stamm and saxophonist Robinson add considerably to the session's swinging spirit, while Whitfield's rhythm section provides a strong foundation. The big surprise of the album is the Manhattan Project, which provides stellar examples of lyrical delight. The group is right on target, and each member plays an instrument too.
Whitfield is at his best on trombone. While he scat sings quite well, his vocal lyric interpretations are not warm, convincing or thrilling. There's a great contrast between his vocals and those of his guests. He seems to enjoy singing, but he never gets deep enough into his subject matter to make a difference.
Whitfield's singing takes a significant turn on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, where his manner comes close to an impersonation of Dean Martin. It's better than the rest of the program, but his "main squeeze rests with the love that he gets from his trombone. The instrument never fails to give Whitfield a clear picture of what he wants to express.
A Beautiful Friendship; Sugar; Come to Me; I
Scott Whitfield: vocals, trombone, arranger; Ted Kooshian: piano; Mary Ann McSweeney: bass; Willard Dyson,
Terry Clarke: drums; The Manhattan Vocal Project: Pete McGuinness, Scott Whitfield, Kevin Osborne: vocals,
trombone; Joe Elefante: vocal, alto saxophone; Special Guests: Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar; Cheryl Bentyne: vocals;
Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn; Memo Acevedo: percussion; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone, bass
saxophone, bass flute.
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