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November 2001

Curtis Stigers
Baby Plays Around
Concord Records

If the name Curtis Stigers rings a bell but somehow not in the jazz arena, there's a reason. The vocalist is most widely recognized for his 1991 pop chart-climber, "I Wonder Why," and hits like "I Never Saw a Miracle." Baby Plays Around represents the singer's first jazz recording, though he's no newcomer to the style. Stigers plays it safe for this debut, performing a repertoire of jazz standards and assembling a solid band. The ensemble includes pianist Larry Goldings, bassists Dennis Irwin or Chris Minh Doky and drummers Bill Stewart or Adam Nussbaum. Special guest trumpeter Randy Brecker bolsters the swinging "But Not for Me" and the tasty "All of You."

Stigers, who also blows a couple of sax solos here, proves he knows his way around jazz. He takes off running on "Billie's Bounce" and mellows his tone even when reaching for the high notes on "All the Things You Are." He gets lots of assistance from pianist Goldings, who brings imagination to the classic tunes while offering the vocalist great support. On occasion, Stigers allows his vocal influences, like Frank Sinatra, to seep into his style, taking away from a sense of spontaneity. At times, the vocalist also leans to the overly affected when more subtlety, of which he is capable, is in order.

Stigers' Baby Plays Around introduces him to the jazz world as a vocalist equipped with rich tones and some fine instincts.

Originally published in November 2001
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