Alexander Stewart- I Thought About You
(www.alexanderstewart.net ASMOO3. CD Review by Frank Griffith)
Singer Alexander Stewart‘s second release I Thought About You explores a range of styles, idioms and sounds to great effect. The three general areas covered are classic vocal standards (1940s/50s) 1960s groove/boogaloo soul and four Stewart originals, one of which co written with pianist, composer and “song activist”, Alex Webb. What might appear to be a disparate concoction of genres results in a final meal that is quite wholesome and captivating.
Stewart’s easy on the ear mezzo-tenor-cum-baritone voice is engaging and well suited for all of the varied repertoire. Because of its velvety and mellow qualities there is never a hint of any acidic or over-the-top vibes. As a matter of fact, the occasional nonchalant swagger that occurs is ever so welcome.
Special plaudits go to co producers and arrangers, Rob Barron and Freddie Gavita for their exemplary work throughout. In addition to his masterful piano accompanying skills (especially on their duet of A House is not a Home) Barron arranged several of the smaller band songs with aplomb. The four big band numbers were deftly arranged by Gavita who also contributes some elegantly tasty flugelhorn solos as well.
His innovative treatment on the Van Heusen/Mercer title song I Thought About You scores highly with its unconventional metre and hypnotic three chord vamp providing a mystical undercurrent with a melody that some of the more “mature” listeners will recognise. It all works famously though not least down to the arranger’s full bodied and melodically rich solo over the perplexing riff. Echoes of Chet Baker and Teutonic trumpet ace, Till Bronner, come to mind. Gavita’s mellow but centred tonal quality is compelling with each note connecting to the next seamlessly. Star saxist, Alex Garnett (A Ronnie’s regular) also makes a few guest solo cameos providing excitement and bluster as only he can.
Being a bit of a “Burtaholic” I was delighted to see two Bacharach classics (The Look of Love and House) included. Stewart’s taking of many liberties with the original melody on House to suit his interpretation might have caused Burt to roll in his hot tub but hopefully not. Bacharach melodies are famously difficult to negotiate with their angular intervals and phrase lengths at the best of times. One is allowed “artistic licence” presumably, so perhaps the listeners and lovers of these songs will be find their way past this.
A heroic effort to be sure by the young Mr Stewart with a first class “A Team” band , a string orchestra on several tracks, excellent recording quality and product packaging. Lets not forget the brilliant vocals as well. Enjoy the feast!