3

Anthony Strong: Stepping Out

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Anthony Strong: Stepping Out Not too many years ago it seemed that the art of the male jazz vocalist was heading in the same direction as black and white televisions and 8-track cartridges. One or two notable voices kept the flame alive, but new, young, vocal talent wasn't emerging. Then it started: a slow process, but new male singers began to appear. In the UK the most obvious example of the new breed is the million-selling Jamie Cullum. Anthony Strong's performance on Stepping Out suggests that there's a contender for Cullum's crown.

Singer, songwriter and pianist Strong already had a wealth of experience before recording Stepping Out, his third release after the self-produced Guaranteed! (2009) and the 5 song EP Delovely (Guaranteed Records, 2011). He's been a session pianist and he's supported stars including B.B. King. He also spent a year playing Jerry Lee Lewis in a West End production of Million Dollar Quartet. Now signed to French label Naïve (Adele's record company), Strong's career is rapidly gaining momentum.

On Stepping Out Strong mixes his own songs (with lyrics by Guy Mathers) and Songbook standards. He keeps things short and swift—14 songs in 48 minutes. A proper album, in other words. It's a smart move for two reasons: nothing gets bogged down in over-extended solos and every single tune is a radio-friendly 4 minutes 16 seconds or less. The standards are almost universally familiar, but Strong gives them enough of a shake-up to keep things fresh. His own songs; "Change My Ways" "Earlybird," "Learning To Unlove You" and "Falling In Love"; are immediately impressive.

In another smart move, Strong has surrounded himself with some of the UK's finest straight-ahead players—musicians who know how to swing, how to lay back and how to back a singer in a sympathetic way. The core rhythm section players—bassists Tom Farmer and Calum Gourlay, drummers Sebastian De Krom and Matt Skelton—are superb throughout.

The up-tempo swingers are the album's most enjoyable numbers. Strong's timing and technique are exceptional, his commitment is clear. He's not a singer who tears at the heartstrings like Kurt Elling or Ian Shaw might do. He's at the more escapist end of the spectrum, his voice maintaining its welcoming, relaxed, vibe whether he's performing a hard-driving song such as "Change My Ways" or a ballad like the excellent "My Foolish Heart." The exception is "Learning To Unlove You," a convincing and passionate solo performance.

The album credits name check the company that made Strong's suit (Without Prejudice, for the fashion-conscious). Such a credit may seem rather superfluous, but it's a sign that everything about his image is being taken seriously and that's no bad thing. Stepping Out is slick, engaging and likeable—if Strong was an English football team he'd be ready for the Premier League.


Track Listing: Too Darn Hot; Change My Ways; Luck Be A Lady; Stepping Out With My Baby; L-O-V-E; Falling In Love; Someone Knows; My Foolish Heart; My Ship; Witchcraft; When I Fall In Love; Overjoyed; Earlybird; Learning To Unlove You.

Personnel: Anthony Strong: vocals, piano; Quentin Collins: trumpet; Alistair White: trombone; Alex Garnett: alto saxophone; Brandon Allen: tenor saxophone; Chris Allard; guitar; Tom Farmer: bass (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12); Sebastian De Krom: percussion, drums (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12); Calum Gourlay: bass (2, 4, 8, 10, 11); Matt Skelton: drums (2, 4, 8, 10, 11); Nigel Hitchcock: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 13); James Morrison: trumpet (3); Daniel Pioro: strings; Palome Deike: strings; Charlotte Bonneton: strings; Glensi Roberts: strings; Jenny Ames: strings; Robert Ames: strings; Magda Pietraszewska: strings; Tristan Horne: strings.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Naive


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Dogs" CD/LP/Track Review Dogs
by Doug Collette
Published: February 28, 2016
Read "Flux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "Eight Track II" CD/LP/Track Review Eight Track II
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 4, 2016
Read "Interstellar Space" CD/LP/Track Review Interstellar Space
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: May 29, 2016
Read "Better Than Anything" CD/LP/Track Review Better Than Anything
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 24, 2016
Read "Live! from the Cantina: A Star Wars Jazz Tribute" CD/LP/Track Review Live! from the Cantina: A Star Wars Jazz Tribute
by Jim Olin
Published: March 6, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!