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October 2006

Maurice Hines
To Nat King Cole With Love
Arbors Records

Some jazz singers are so busy swinging, they often forget about lyrics. They should listen to, and learn from, this album. Sure, Maurice Hines has flaws: His range is limited and his sustained notes tend to wobble, but oh, how he phrases and how he groups lyrics together, often singing some words in italics. And he has a jazz singer’s sense of humor. This session is a blast from the get-go.

Take some loose-swinging sidemen and sidewomen from the Apple, give them Tommy Newsom’s economical arrangements and then put pianist Frank Owens in charge and you get the joyful results heard here. “Almost Like Being in Love” had to swing because it was given just the right tempo; ditto the shuffle “Route 66,” “L-O-V-E” and “This Can’t Be Love.” “Dream” sounds brand new as a bossa nova; Karolina Strassmayer’s flute solo helps considerably. Listen carefully to Owens; he’s a track stealer with his interpolations, sneaking in “Love in Bloom” twice on “Little Girl” and quoting “At Sunrise” and “L-O-V-E” in “The Very Thought of You.” Guitarist Howard Alden gets into the act, quoting “Lil’ Darlin’” on “Love Is Here to Stay.” Alden also adds to the Basie feel in the rhythm section. Happy jazz—it’s infectious.

Originally published in October 2006
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