On this collection of genuine pop standards – the Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On,” Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from Rodgers/Hart, and more – Scaggs saunters through spare, smoky nightclub arrangements in his understated, comfortable voice, supported by a quartet led by pianist Paul Nagel, who also did all the arrangements. Nagel approximates the touch and sound of Ralph Sharon, Tony Bennett’s longtime pianist. The comparison ends there.
Make no mistake, there’s nothing awful about this package: Scaggs’ voice, the arrangements, and the instrumentation are all pleasant enough. Every song is cushioned comfortably in Scaggs’ warm range, and is gracefully phrased; his timing in “How Long Has This Been Going On,” for example, suggests Ben Webster curling up with a ballad (a feeling echoed in the saxophone solo by Eric Crystal).
But that’s just it – but beautiful is never much more than ‘pleasant enough.’ The instrumental solos, such as Crystal’s mainstream saxophone soul in the aeroglide “Never Let Me Go,” are often more rewarding than Scaggs’ vocal verses. but beautiful is sort of like the non- alcoholic equivalent of a cocktail party, with all of the trappings and flavors and none of the intoxication. There may be a great album of jazz/pop standards in Scaggs, who has obvious taste in material and knows his way around a song. But this is not it.
Boz Scaggs, vocals; Paul Nagel, piano and arrangements; Eric Crystal, saxophone; John Shifflett,
bass; Jason Lewis, drums.
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