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Nicolas Bearde: Live at Yoshi’s: A Salute to Lou

Bay Area singer Nicolas Bearde, an alumnus of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra and the vocal sextet SoVoS, sounds like a soul-drenched Mark Murphy with a dash of Sinatra swagger. In other words, there’s little similarity between Bearde and butterscotch-smooth baritone Lou Rawls. But tribute albums, or at least the better among the persistently popular genre, are less about mimicry than they are about capturing the essence of the honoree and the zeitgeist of the musical era in which he flourished. On both counts, Bearde does admirably, if not entirely, well.

Drawing largely from Stormy Monday, Lou Rawls Live! and other fine Capitol albums from the 1960s (back when there was still a hint of grit in the butterscotch), Bearde effectively channels the younger Rawls’ ability to blur the lines between jazz, soul and blues. The songs-“The Girl From Ipanema,” “I Believe in You,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “God Bless the Child,” “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water”-are more strongly associated with other singers, but Rawls made each his own, and Bearde ably demonstrates how.

Of the iconic Rawls hits, only one, the buttery “Lady Love,” gets full-length treatment. The others, including the brilliant but underappreciated “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing” and the mediocre but wildly popular “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” are patched together in a rather cheesy, overwrought medley that seems worthier of the lounge at a down-at-the-heels Holiday Inn than Oakland’s elegant, jazz-savvy Yoshi’s.

Originally Published