24 AUG 07 ANNE FARNSWORTH
A mellow mix of pop, jazz and blues, Singer and saxophonist Curtis Stigers' music drifts languidly around the borders of mainstream jazz. On his 10th CD, Real Emotional, he eschews vocal gymnastics, taking a straightforward approach to his material, betting on the strength of the songs to draw in the listener. The composers he showcases are an eclectic bunch. Pop icons Paul Simon and Bob Dylan share billing with eccentric iconoclasts Randy Newman and Tom Waits. Re-arranging songs in a jazz format is nothing new, but it's a sign of changing times that the sources jazz artists are tapping are expanding beyond the traditional Broadway-type standards of yesteryear.
There's a warmth and sincerity in Stigers' voice and the crisp pared-down arrangements, featuring retro instruments like accordion, ukulele, Wurlitzer piano and harmonium, give the music a timeless feel. Guitarist John Pizzarelli swings a Django-style accompaniment on Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and the Hoagy Carmichael standard, "Stardust." Stigers' tenor saxophone is featured on "Your Mind Is On Vacation" and "I Only Want To Be With You," one of several originals. Paul Simon's "American Tune," "I Don't Want To Talk About It Now" by Emmylou Harris and Jill Cunnif and Randy Newman's "Real Emotional Girl" are presented with only multi-keyboardist Larry Golding accompaniment. Golding is Stigers' producing partner and deserves special mention as the album's arranger for creating a unified musical sensibility from a wide-ranging collection of source material