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04/30/12

Steve Tyrell
I'll Take Romance
Concord Records

This is surely the first jazz album ever inspired by Chelsea Clinton. Actually, it was Chelsea’s dad, no stranger to jazz, who ignited the idea when, in late 2010, he caught up with Steve Tyrell during the singer’s annual festive-season stint at the Café Carlyle. There, the ex-President revealed that father and daughter danced to Tyrell’s “The Way You Look Tonight” at Chelsea’s wedding. That track, as performed by Tyrell in the 1991 rom-com remake Father of the Bride, was single-handedly responsible for kindling his late-breaking career as a jazz vocalist. Now, some two decades later, thanks to an offhand comment at the Carlyle, Tyrell has assembled an entire platter of wedding-worthy tunes anchored by that original version of “The Way You Look Tonight.”

What might, in less capable hands, have been a syrupy exercise in commercialism emerges as a lovely collection of ballads. Few contemporary singers can shape a romantic ballad as distinctively as Tyrell, his black-limo elegance undercut by a truckload of Texas grit. Nor does he retreat to the safety of reception-hall standards. Instead, he augments hoary chestnuts like “All of You,” “At Last” and the title track (nicely rendered in tandem with promising young soul singer Judith Hill) with such unexpected choices as Little Willie John’s “Talk to Me, Talk to Me,” the vintage Mildred Bailey serenade “Trust in Me” (later re-popularized by Etta James) and the gentle Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil rarity “You Turn Me Around.”

Originally published in April 2012
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