Vocalist David Basse has served as Kansas City’s foremost jazz advocate for more than a quarter-century, earning national acclaim for his City Light Orchestra. Basse’s work outside the orchestra has remained, however, largely a local pleasure. A particularly terrific 2001 disc, Strike When Your Iron Is Hot, placed Basse, whose gruff voice occupies the median between Curtis Stigers and Steve Tyrell, alongside pianist Mike Melvoin.
A decade later, Basse reconnected with Melvoin for Uptown, which turned out to be one of the stellar pianist’s final gigs, completed just months before his death from cancer in February. As on their first collaboration, the playlist includes a smattering of standards—breezy readings of “On a Slow Boat to China,” “Bidin’ My Time” and “I’ve Got the World on a String,” and a bravura vocalese navigation of “Parker’s Mood”—plus a bunch of Melvoin-penned selections.
This time, almost all the Melvoin tunes center around the jazz life (as does producer Mark Winkler’s übercool “Like Jazz”). It’s ideal grist for a diehard like Basse, not to mention marquee guest Phil Woods, who brilliantly alternates on clarinet and tenor sax throughout. It’s also a wonderfully fitting epitaph for the mighty Melvoin.