Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Bill Kwan: No Ordinary Love: The Music of Sade (Ikeda)

A review of the vocalist's tribute album

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Bill Kwan: No Ordinary Love: The Music of Sade
The cover of No Ordinary Love: The Music of Sade by Bill Kwan

Bill Kwan flew through medical school at USC, hung out a shingle as a dermatologist, then decided in middle age to go for broke, for his love of singing. This odd trajectory’s probably why he sounds so agreeably odd. It took me a few turns through No Ordinary Love before I expected him not to phrase like Sade, when phrasing like her is of course quite beside the point.  

Kwan—backed by ringers like trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, keyboardist Kevin Hays, and guitarist/bassist Tony Scherr—doesn’t show much range or punch, but he’s mastered a supple and measured, never stiff, mic intimacy. “This love is far and wide,” he declaims in “Flower of the Universe,” and you forget Sade, forget the magnificent absurdity of a universal flower, since he’s got “far and wide” down to a specific “you” and “you” alone; anything can sprout from fecund simplicity. Heavy concepts collapse, gently, into the personable—even a far-flung “King of Sorrow,” with its protagonist “crying everyone’s tears” and paying “for all my future sins.”

“Jezebel” takes the intimacy down to a near-whisper, from which even the most delicate of builds resounds as if it were bouncing off a Giza pyramid. He beckons from a corner and you sit down, while he confesses, softly, not to sins, which are wants burdened with shames, but to wants and needs mostly humanly confused; desires, regrets, a few thoughts on how to build from the rubble. There’s his secret. You open, and he comes in.

Learn more about No Ordinary Love: The Music of Sade on Amazon!