Those who think of singer/saxman Curtis Stigers as a pop/rock artist and associate him with "I Wonder Why" and "Peace, Love and Understanding" will be surprised to learn that Baby Plays Around is very much a jazz album – not jazzy pop, but straight-ahead acoustic jazz. Not that there is any reason why someone with pop/rock credentials can't embrace jazz if his heart is really in it; after all, jazz and rock are both part of the blues family. And even though some pretentious individuals in the jazz world love to state that jazz is "America's classical music," the fact is that jazz has more in common with rock and R&B than with Beethoven or Mozart. Stigers thrived on that blues feeling as a pop/rock singer in the early '90s, and he thrives on it as a jazz singer.
Jazz-rooted former pop singer Curtis Stigers has made a fine homage to Frank Sinatra’s 1966 Sinatra at the Sands album with Count Basie’s orchestra, recorded live as the original was. Stigers is much more gruff and rugged than a smoothie like Michael Bublé, as hip in his timing as Kurt Elling, if not as unpredictable – and he could hardly be in more cracking company than the Danish Radio Big Band, which catches the punchy Basie sound and the twists of Quincy Jones’s arrangements with immense aplomb.
Just in case the title One More for the Road didn't suggest Sinatra, Curtis Stigers underscores his debt to the Chairman of the Board by patterning the artwork for this 2017 collaboration with the Danish Radio Big Band after 1966's Sinatra at The Sands. In fact, One More for the Road is something of a salute to that 1966 record, containing eight songs from that double album and adhering to the snazzy swing of late-period Frank. Stigers even channels that sensibility into "Summer Wind," a gentle breeze of a single, and that's one of the distinguishing factors of One More for the Road. Another distinguishing factor is the cheerful blare of the Dutch Radio Big Band, who are big and brassy without overwhelming the singer.
Al Green was the first great soul singer of the '70s and arguably the last great Southern soul singer. With his seductive singles for Hi Records in the early '70s, Green bridged the gap between deep soul and smooth Philadelphia soul. He incorporated elements of gospel, interjecting his performances with wild moans and wails, but his records were stylish, boasting immaculate productions that rolled along with a tight beat, sexy backing vocals, and lush strings. The distinctive Hi Records sound that the vocalist and producer Willie Mitchell developed made Al Green the most popular and influential soul singer of the early '70s, influencing not only his contemporaries, but also veterans like Marvin Gaye. Green was at the peak of his popularity when he suddenly decided to join the ministry in the mid-'70s…
Few observers expected that Whitney Houston's first big-screen role in 1992's The Bodyguard would generate a phenomenon. Not that the film itself was a phenomenon – it was a healthy success, due not only to Houston, but to her co-star Kevin Costner's drawing power – but the soundtrack's success was astonishing. The Bodyguard followed Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" to the top of the charts, and once they got there, neither the single nor the album budged for weeks. "I Will Always Love You" spent a record-shattering 14 weeks in the top slot, while The Bodyguard spent 20 weeks at number one, eventually selling over 15 million copies and winning the Grammy award for Album of the Year.
The U.K.'s Now series features timely selections of pop hits and provides a convenient way for casual pop fans to stay on top of the most popular singles. The sets are almost always naturally well-rounded, encompassing dance music, R&B, hip-hop, teen pop, and rock. And though they might expire, in a sense, since they're based on trends in pop music, they work as more than adequate snapshots of specific points in time. The 21st volume, released in 1991, includes the KLF's "Justified and Ancient," Mr. Big's "To Be with You," Shanice's "I Love Your Smile," the Jesus & Mary Chain's "Far Gone and Out," Ce Ce Peniston's "We Got a Love Thang," Paula Abdul's "Vibeology," the Cure's "High," and Everything But the Girl's "Love Is Strange."