Steve Tyrell, "I'll Take Romance" (Concord)
Taking up a suggestion from former President Bill Clinton, who danced to Steve Tyrell's music at daughter Chelsea's wedding, Tyrell has crafted an album of romantic standards that can serve as a soundtrack for weddings and other special occasions.
Fittingly, it includes his version of "The Way You Look Tonight" from the 1991 Steve Martin film "Father of the Bride" which helped transform Tyrell from a behind-the-scenes producer, arranger and songwriter into a crooner who embraced the Great American Songbook. Tyrell dips into the Songbook to include a swaggering "Taking a Chance on Love" with a strings-and-horns arrangement and Cole Porter's "All of You" set to a lilting bossa nova rhythm.
But it's his R&B roots that distinguish the native Texan from other retro crooners, reflected in his slightly raspy, soulful voice. Tyrell's repertoire includes mellowed versions of classic R&B songs such as Little WiIlie John's "Talk To Me," Sam Cooke's "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," and Etta James' "At Last." Tyrell flavors his songs with jazz influences by including solos from trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist David Mann and guitarist Bob Mann.
Tyrell also includes several less familiar songs of more recent vintage, including David Foster and Linda Thompson's "A Love That Will Last" and "You Turn Me Around" by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
The album's biggest revelation is singer Judith Hill, who had been tapped to sing duets with Michael Jackson for his planned "This Is It" concerts, cancelled after his death. Her lightly swinging duet with Tyrell on the title track — including a steamy solo by Frank Sinatra saxophonist Plas Johnson — provides a welcome change of pace to an album that takes a fresh look at classic standards.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The combination of Tyrell's earthy vocals and Hill's soaring, sultry singing on "I'll Take Romance" makes for a successful pairing in a similar vein to the unmatchable Louis Armstrong-Ella Fitzgerald duets.