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Phil Perry: Magic

With his beautiful, embracing tenor vocals leading the way, and well-crafted, diverse arrangements surrounding it, Phil Perry creates joyous, romantic Magic (Peak PKD-8504-2; 49:03). Where many competent singers in the urban-jazz area tend to be reduced or eclipsed by over-baked arrangements, Perry smartly chooses partners like Russ Freeman and Lee Ritenour, who bring acoustic and rootsy instrumentations that complement his vocals. Freeman brings gentle guitar to the sunny Brazilian-threaded “Keep Reminding Me,” for example, as well as the soaring “All of My Days.” The Ritenour-penned “In the Morning (Father’s Lullaby)” is as warm and nostalgic in its instrumental details as it is in its lyrics, recalling a father’s advice (“We spoke of goals and how to reach them graciously”). Perry brings a lyrical sweetness and romantic joy to pieces like these, rendering them inspirational rather than corny or cliched. Some of his best work comes on the hopping, off-beat “Magic,” as he exclaims, awe-struck, “Like magic, the way you ease life’s pain when you speak my name,” and the warm, lower-register romance of “Keep Reminding Me.” There are a few skipable missteps, like the breathy “I Can’t Wait (‘Til Morning Comes),” but Perry’s pipes can make up for a great deal here.

Originally Published