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June 2001

Luqman Hamza
With This Voice
Groove Note Records

Hearing this resplendent set of 13 romantic standards, you'll wonder why 68-year-old Kansas City singer-pianist Luqman Hamza (formerly known as Larry Cummings) has gone largely unheralded in spite of a smooth-tenor vocal style that is better than those of his major inspirations, Nat King Cole, Charles Brown and Billy Eckstine.

Hamza's luscious voice gives new meaning to classics such as "My One and Only Love," "Never Let Me Go," "Blue Moon," "My Funny Valentine," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Laura" and other American songbook treasures. Sonny Kenner (guitar), Kim Park (alto sax, flute), Tyrone Clark (bass) and Tommy Ruskin (drums) provide sensitive backing and the whole team sparkles, especially Park's alto-sax improvisations and Kenner's solos and fills.

Hamza's career began in the mid-1940s with The Five Aces, a vocal harmony group he formed with his buddies, before he went left to lead and record with his trio in the 1950s. He relocated in the late '50s to Chicago and made several recordings with Chess Records' jazz division, Argo. Hamza returned in 1971 to K.C. where he's worked steadily until he reemerged in the 1990s through a series of high-profile engagements.

Hamza's deserving of widest exposure. He's a veteran whose perfect pitch, passionate delivery, precise phrasing, warbling vibrato and sophisticated sense of swing make this a pleasurable album you'll want to play over and over.

Originally published in June 2001
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