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

Ian Shaw: The Theory of Joy

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.

Great jazz singers, like great comedians, are masters of timing. That Ian Shaw is a virtuoso of both disciplines, balancing standup and concert gigs, speaks to the breadth of his genius and to the singularity of his style as a singer. It’s hardly surprising that he’s often classified as a cabaret performer since he so heartily embraces that polished art’s special blend of storytelling élan and vocal dexterity. Always a step beyond jazz singing, he is better described as a jazz-savvy showman.

Also an estimable pianist, arranger and songwriter, he has experimented with everything from acoustic funk to big bands and string quartets. Here, for the first time, he travels the more traditional route of vocalist plus trio, teaming with pianist Barry Green, bassist Mick Hutton and drummer Dave Ohm. As always, the chameleonic Shaw is enthralling.

The playlist brilliantly jumbles the old (revisiting “Small Day Tomorrow” and the title track from 2009’s Somewhere Towards Love), new, borrowed (David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Cy Coleman, Traffic, Michel Legrand, Oliver!) and blue (a prowling “Born to Be Blue” among four digital-only tracks). Though the eclectic mix is unilaterally dazzling, including a caffeinated nod to Betty Carter with “All This and Betty Too,” Shaw remains most compelling when unguardedly confessional, here with the wrenching epitaph “My Brother.”

Originally Published