Rockin’ Rod isn’t the only old-time pop star to trade in his spandex for a tux. Actually, that’s not fair. Boz Scaggs was never a struttin’ popinjay like Stewart, and his take on the Great American Songbook is more laid-back and intimate. Sparse, sparkling arrangements by co-producer Gil Goldstein help tremendously, and Scaggs doesn’t pretend to be what he isn’t. Wisely, he eschews the role of “jazz singer,” relying, instead, on his well-developed pop smarts and his warmly relatable voice.
From the first words of Bronislaw Kaper and Paul Francis Webster’s “Invitation,” which opens the disc, listeners will recall that voice from “Lido Shuffle” and “Lowdown.” The voice has deepened with time, while retaining its musicality and character. Scaggs sings from the heart, with an innate sense of phrasing, and imbues the songs with soul and wistfulness.
A version of Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s “Skylark” begins with bassist Scott Colley accompanying Scaggs. Then vibraphonist Mike Mainieri comes in, followed gradually by the rest of the band. Saxophonist Bob Sheppard and Scaggs play off one another, while Goldstein’s piano holds it all together. Elsewhere, bass clarinets, flutes, marimba and accordion accentuate the singer and the song. On “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me,” Scaggs is relaxed and engaging, as are Goldstein and Mainieri. The strings are romantic but not overly lush, merely supporting Mainieri through his gentle solo. Both the soloists and arrangements are first-rate. And while Scaggs may not be a jazz vocalist, he’s an impeccable interpreter of these timeless songs.
— Ross Boissoneau
Boz Scaggs – Speak Low
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