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Jamie Davis: Vibe Over Perfection

Jimmy Rushing, Joe Williams, Billy Eckstine, Bill Henderson and Arthur Prysock: superlative baritones (OK, technically Rushing was a tenor, but his range extended to baritone) who all performed with the Count Basie Band. Now, add Jamie Davis to the illustrious list. After several years as the Basie Band’s lead singer, the big-voiced San Franciscan went out on his own in 2002, self-producing the tender, ballad-centric It’s All About Love. Signing with the Unity label in ’06, Davis returned to the big-band groove with It’s a Good Thing, produced by former Sly and the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico, conducted by Shelly Berg and featuring a stellar outfit incorporating several Basie-ites.

Wisely opting not to mess with a good thing, Davis has kept the proceedings precisely the same for the seven new tracks (augmented with somewhat mellower 2005 recordings of “Blue Skies” and “The Look of Love”) included on Vibe Over Perfection. Berg and Errico are back, as are the Basie bandmates, working through a playlist split between classics and contemporary tunes. Blistering treatments of “Pennies From Heaven,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “Nature Boy” recall Basie and Williams at their combined height. Davis’ dark, dense “‘Round Midnight” rivals Eckstine’s silken splendor. Most impressively, he manages to elevate Lionel Richie’s “Hello” to the same lofty plateau.

Originally Published