There has always been a shortage of male Jazz singers even though in recent years a few more interesting artists have come along. Anthony Strong started his career in a West End musical in London and has signed to the French Naive label a couple of years ago. On his new album, he mixes old standards with Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Michael Jackson, Bill Withers and three original songs.
I know it is always a bit dangerous to include well-known and often-heard tracks such as “As Time Goes By” or “Whatever Lola Wants”, but Anthony is backed here by a swinging big band and has several arrangement tricks on offer. His voice is a down-to-earth, very clear and pitch-perfect one without any vibrato gimmicks or exaggerated affectations. Irving Gordon‘s “Unforgettable” gets a sweet Latin treatment but there are also a couple of songs with no added freshness, like a rather bland “The More I See You”. But they are certainly the minority here.
Stevie Wonder‘s “Higher Ground” is pretty cool and Elvis Costello‘s “Baby Plays Around” is the first real ballad here and showcases the slightly nasal, yet still very enjoyable voice of Anthony who is also playing piano on the album by the way. Michael Jackson‘s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” with its full Latin big band swing works extremely well with Tom Farmer‘s forward-dashing bass. As does “Use Me”, the Bill Withers classic in its new swing garment.
So what about his own songs? “That Kind Of Guy” is coming right out of the late 40s Swing school, “When It Moves You” is a sweet Blues ballad, and “The Outgoing Administration” is probably the one song where his musical past shines through and where he also convinces as a true story teller.
Anthony Strong is on tour in Europe and stops in Vienna (July 3rd) and in London (July 22nd and 23rd) for example.