Will Downing: Sensual Journey

Singer-songwriter Will Downing has one of those voices that could make a two-chord arrangement of the phone book sound interesting: it’s a resonant, whisper-to-embrace baritone that is as romantically appealing as a Luther Vandross or Jeffrey Osborne. With that said, Downing’s Sensual Journey (GRP) makes its most appealing stops with subtle, jazzier material that allows his vocals to stretch and soar. Where the organic-sounding, flute and guitar romancer “Bolero Nova” gives Downing a Johnny Mathis-like crooning platform, the bittersweet soul of “Don’t Talk to Me Like That” allows slow-burning intense emotion. A mesmerizing arrangement of the Ephraim Lewis chestnut “Drowning in Your Eyes” gains depth and darkness from Downing’s lower-range, jazzy vocal treatment. More straightforward pieces, like the sweet-but-generic “Almost Like Being in Love,” are rendered into pleasant enough confections by Downing’s appealing voice, but eye-rolling, keyboard-heavy cliches in cuts like “Brooklyn Breezes” provide unnecessary distraction from the album’s showcase talent.