Bob Stewart,
Did I Remember
(VWC, 2007)

This release is largely a compilation of excerpts from previous Bob Stewart albums. The unifying theme is romance, and the songs are wonderful classics written by Ellington, Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Jobim and a dozen other fine, if less celebrated composers. Older folks will be familiar with the entire program and love it. Thanks to Bob Stewart, some younger listeners unfamiliar with the tunes may join the seniors in wondering why they don't write them like that anymore.

Stewart has a strong, smooth baritone voice perfectly suited to these marvelous standards, and he is always able to assemble an exceptional supporting cast. The creamy, sexy tenor sax fills and solos of Frank Wess are especially satisfying. The frequent string-section support fits the mood and is tastefully short of Vegas. Hank Jones (piano) and Michael Moore (bass) add to the release's jazz creds, and that's got to be the unnamed Toots Thielemans playing harmonica on "Quiet Nights."

While quality is consistently high, I was especially taken with Stewart's phrasing and emotion on "If I Love Again," "In the Still of the Night" and the title tune. The first of these is perhaps the ultimate in poignant descriptions of an ended love affair: "In other eyes it's you I'll see. ... If I love again, it will still be you."

"Gone with the Wind" and "My Funny Valentine" were recorded with the powerhouse Mel Lewis big band. The two tracks are previously unreleased. Unfortunately, they sound out of place. The recording, made in a cavernous church with a live audience, is poor, and Lewis's band clashes with the predominantly string-based groups of the other 13 tracks. But I love the songs and performances, so here's hoping Stewart does a well-recorded, entirely big-band album a la Sinatra with Basie.

Ears receptive to rap and rock may dismiss both the voice and the songs as old fashioned, even corny. Their loss. Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night" will still be listened to long after today's top 10 "fades out of sight," to quote from Porter's lyric. Strongly recommended to all, but especially past and future lovers.

review by
Ron Bierman

30 May 2009

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