West Coast singer Mark Winkler
[Cafe Pacific Records, 2011]) heard David Basse and immediately signed him to his Cafe Pacific Records. Uptown
is the first product of this partnership and, for the sake of the male jazz singer, does not come a moment too soon. There exists a huge disparity between female and male singers singing "serious" jazz. For the sake of context, the serious male jazz singers include Mark Murphy
and Jon Hendricks
(both in the autumn of their spectacular careers) as well as Kurt Elling
and Andy Bey
(still vital). The vast majority of what passes for as male jazz singers are more cabaret singers, the finest ones including Jim Caruso
(The Swing Set
[Yellow Sound Music, 2011]) and the aforementioned Winkler.
Basse has one of those confident yet moody voices that totally lacks self-consciousness, something necessary for jazz vocals. His recital on Uptown
is a compelling collection of standards and originals tending toward a more conservative (read that: mainstream) vein of vocal performance. However, Basse is not afraid to take on King Pleasure
and his brilliant adaptation of Charlie Parker
's "Parker's Mood." In doing so, Basse pays special homage to those artists and the art of vocalese, a dying art in competency. Add the presence of Parker scholar Phil Woods
and a sublime performance emerges. A perfect union of the blues in jazz, Woods introduces the piece with a chorus of the real thing. Pianist Mike Melvoin
and Woods get grand solo space and proceed to show why this "old music" is so important. Basse plays things pretty straight without harnessing the ebullient personality of Pleasure, Parker, the blues, or jazz.