Sachal Vasandani is a dozen years Kurt Elling’s junior, and that gap serves him well: He’s young enough to have absorbed plenty about the art of jazz singing from his fellow Chicagoan, yet mature enough to use such influences solely as guideposts as he shapes his own distinctive sound. Now, three albums in, he makes the leap from promising to fully formed, firmly establishing himself among the foremost post-millennial male vocalists.
There’s often a choir-boy purity about him, here displayed on a reading of “That’s All I Want From You” that echoes the hushed solemnity of Johnny Hartman, and a positively angelic “Here Comes the Honey Man” that is cleverly combined with another Porgy and Bess gem, the jauntily optimistic “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York.” But that’s just one aspect of the versatile Vasandani.
He’s also a first-rate swinger, as demonstrated by romping unions with living legend Jon Hendricks on “One Mint Julep” and the Randy Weston title track. Nakedly beautiful readings of “The Very Thought of You,” “I See Your Face Before Me” and “All the Way” showcase his keen, Connick-esque skill with a love song.
And, to complete the dynamic package, he continues to grow as a songwriter with the sunny “Babes Blues,” the charmingly romantic “Summer No School” and, most impressive, the soaring “Flood,” his deeply personal response to the victims of recent natural disasters in Japan and Pakistan.