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 Groove Dreams CD/LP/Track Review Groove Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Kami Fusen CD/LP/Track Review Kami Fusen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Two CD/LP/Track Review Two
by Joe Gatto
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Galaxies Like Grains Of Sand CD/LP/Track Review Galaxies Like Grains Of Sand
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Nightfall CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by John Kelman
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Pekka CD/LP/Track Review Pekka
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "Moving Still" CD/LP/Track Review Moving Still
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 12, 2016
Read "Leaving Everything Behind" CD/LP/Track Review Leaving Everything Behind
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 5, 2016
Read "Warsaw Concert" CD/LP/Track Review Warsaw Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: December 4, 2016
Read "Rímur" CD/LP/Track Review Rímur
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 15, 2017
Read "Hot Coffey in the D – Burnin' at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge" CD/LP/Track Review Hot Coffey in the D – Burnin' at Morey...
by Doug Collette
Published: January 15, 2017
Read "Two Hands, One Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Two Hands, One Heart
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 8, 2017
comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!