Brian Stokes Mitchell - Simply Broadway (CDBaby) This Tony Award winner surveys about half a century of musical theater on this solo disc that makes for an often stirring recording, as his rich, mellifluous voice caresses well-known tunes by the likes of Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin, and Stephen Sondheim. And not only does Mitchell sound terrific, his interpretations are shrewd and insightful, and his work is deftly supported by pianist/arranger Tedd Firth's carefully considered work in songs like "Sorry Grateful" (from Company), which subtly emphasizes the song's melancholic bitterness, a rousing interpretation of "The Impossible Dream" (from Man of La Mancha), and a keenly funny rendering of "It Ain't Necessarily So" (from Porgy and Bess).
Jason Gould - Jason Gould (Backwards Dog) With this first EP compilation, Gould, who's made a mark for himself as an actor on the screen in Prince of Tides and on stage in The Twilight of the Golds in the West End, adds singer to his resume, offering up a quintet of tunes with gentle, heartfelt intensity. The recording includes standards such as Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy," which has a hypnotic, dreamlike quality to it in Gould's interpretation, and Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean," which Gould infuses with a palpable sense of longing and adoration, as well as one original number (the subdued ballad, "Morning Prayer").
Robert Cuccioli - The Look of Love (RobertCuccioli.com) Cuccioli channels the likes of singing legends like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett on this utterly beguiling disc that generously surveys the American Songbook over the course of an ample 22 tracks. As one would expect, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and the Gershwins are represented along with writers like Hank Williams ("Cold, Cold Heart") and teams such as Leo Robin and Russ Columbo ("Prisoners of Love"). Cuccioli's vocals have a debonair flair, that's moderated by a certain earthiness, which makes this album particularly seductive.
Alton Fitzgerald White - Disney My Way (AltonFitzgeraldWhite.com) A baker's dozen of tunes from classic Disney films get a soulful, R&B facelift on this new album. White, currently appearing on Broadway in The Lion King, has a rich baritone that's terrifically suited for the new arrangements for the songs that come from the likes of Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and even Newsies are represented), Phil Collins ("Strangers Like Me" form Tarzan), and the Sherman Brothers. Interestingly, it's the wholesale revisions to a couple of tunes from Mary Poppins that are the disc's standouts, particularly the singer's hauntingly delivered take on "Feed the Birds."
Tony Bennett - Viva Duets (Columbia Records) With his third "duets" album, Tony Bennett once again demonstrates that he might have found not only the fountain of youth for himself, but also the American Songbook, as he offers up classic tunes like "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "I Wanna Be Around" with some of the hottest names in Latin music today. In some instances, such "For Once in My Life," he and his singing partner, Broadway vet Marc Anthony, deliver the number in English, while elsewhere, such as a deliciously buoyant "Rags to Riches," the tune is performed by Bennett in English and Romeo Santos in Spanish. The arrangements are pretty old-school, but when Bennett and Christina Aguilera tear into a chestnut like "Steppin' Out With My Baby," the result is remarkably fresh.
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