Jamie Davis - It's A Good
Thing by Russ Musto
Jazz vocalist Jamie Davis, a veteran of the Count
Basie Orchestra, confirms his position in the pantheon
of great male vocalists that have sung with that esteemed
ensemble on It's A Good Thing,
a world class recording featuring the superb singer
fronting a first rate big band, made up of members
of the Basie organization and some of Los Angeles'
finest instrumentalists, conducted by Shelly Berg.
Produced by legendary Sly and the Family Stone drummer
Greg Errico, It's A Good Thing combines
swinging arrangements of pop hits by Stevie Wonder
and George Harrison with a satisfying mix of Great
American Songbook standards and bebop, bossa, ballads
Blessed with a deep, dark rich voice nurtured in
the Pentecostal church, Davis exhibits the influence
of the late greats Joe Williams and Lou Rawls, among
others, in his own highly personal style. Singing
with an authoritative tone, impeccable diction and
seemingly effortless swing, Davis has the kind of
sound that will have listeners begging for more.
The deluxe package also includes a DVD, The Making
of It's A Good Thing, that documents the joyous
proceedings that produced this remarkable recording.
The date opens with Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She
Lovely" arranged in the classic Basie style by
Aaron Lington, an alumnus of the University of North
Texas renowned One O'clock Lab Band. Davis sails smoothly
over the orchestra, propelled by the Basie rhythm
section of pianist Tony Suggs, guitarist Will Matthews,
bassist James Leary III and drummer Butch Miles, singing
with all the aplomb of a master who is completely
comfortable in the company of equally talented artists.
Basie trumpeter Scotty Barnhart, inspired by the vocalist's
performance, weighs in with a wailing exuberant solo
of his own that sets the bar high for the rest of
George Harrison's "Something" may seem
like an unlikely selection for a big band date, but
Lington's relaxed rhythmic arrangement of the beautiful
Beatles ballad makes it sound like it was written
just for this orchestra, with Davis's distinctive
phrasing making the piece his own. Matthews'
guitar keeps the medium tempo churning and piano and
tenor saxophone solos add the finishing touches to
this curious addition to the jazz canon.
Allyn Ferguson's orchestration of Harold Arlen's
"I've Got The World On A String" finds the
band in familiar Basie territory with Davis showing
his bluesy Joe Williams roots with an occasional gravel
voiced nod in the direction of the father of all jazz
singers, Louis Armstrong. Jamie's flawless delivery
flows easily into Roger Glenn's soulful tenor solo,
which contrasts nicely with Barnhart's blaring trumpet
that follows, just before the singer digs in for a
Cole Porter's "Night and Day," freshly
arranged by Tom Hart, opens with a loping introduction
built around Tony Suggs' slow piano ostinato and the
band's legato horns. Davis comes in singing
the classic lyric with the band gradually shifting
into a straight ahead swing. Voice and horns
establish a call and response pattern and the rhythm
section keeps things moving.
Hart's orchestration of "Besame Mucho,"
reminiscent of Gil Evans' Sketches of Spain
arrangements for Miles Davis, features Malo and Santana
percussionists Karl Perazzo and Tony Menjivar supplying
the Latin groove, anchored by Errico's claves.
Jamie's passionate reading of the Consuelo Velazquez
classic is tantalizingly romantic. Shelly Berg and
Tony Suggs switch chairs on this one, offering Berg
an opportunity to demonstrate his wonderful abilities
as a sensitive pianist.
Jamie's rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "My
Funny Valentine," lusciously arranged by Basie
trumpeter Bob Ojeda, reaffirms the singer's unsurpassed
skill as a balladeer that he clearly demonstrated
on his debut release It's All About Love.
Once again, Berg takes over the piano chair for another
beautiful excursion across the keyboard.
Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser,"
arranged by Marcus Shelby, gives Davis a chance to
show off his bop chops. The singer starts off
scatting a slow duet at the top of his range over
bassist James Leary's big bottom, with the two continuing
together through the first chorus of the hip Jon Hendricks
lyric. The band comes in dramatically and saxophonist
William Frenzel and trumpeter Scotty Barnhart solo
with abandon, stretching out over the riffing horn
sections driven by Butch Miles's pulsing rhythm. Paul
Young's trombone blows over Leary's walking bass line
before Davis takes things out with an ironic finish.
"My Kinda Love" features Davis on another
Tom Hart arrangement in the classic Basie mold.
The singer takes his time on this one, stretching
out the words with his rich full bodied voice for
dramatic effect. The Roger Glenn flute interlude
recalls the wonderful sound of Frank Wess on some
of Thad Jones and Frank Foster's superior arrangements
for the Count.
Shelly Berg's bright arrangement of Steve Wonder's
"Another Star" is another one of the date's
many highlights. Davis sings the well known
words with flowing authority, while Berg and the band
pull out all the stops on this track, which brings
together the worlds of jazz and pop in the finest
On "Every Day I Have The Blues" Davis emphatically
demonstrates his place as the rightful heir to the
throne once held by the master Joe Williams.
Jamie pays homage to his hero with a swinging straightforward
reading of the late great Basie vocalist's signature
song, arranged here by Bob Ojeda.
A favorite of singers through the ages, Ray Noble's
'The Very Thought Of You" has been covered by
everyone from Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole to Frank
Sinatra and (most famously) Johnny Hartman.
Jamie's immaculate annunciation emphasizes the beauty
of the cleverly constructed lyric, making this version,
arranged by Ojeda, an excellent addition to the many
that came before it.
The date closes with a rousing rendition of "Alright
Okay You Win," another Joe Williams classic from
the Basie book, arranged by Bob Ojeda. Everyone
wins on this rocking feature for the singer and the
band. The section work is magnificently smooth with
plenty of room for horn solos from Frenzel, Barnhart
and Young. The latest edition of the Basie All American
rhythm section shows that when it comes to swinging,
there's no better team in contemporary music and Davis
himself proves that in the matter of singing in front
of a big band he is without equal today.
Great male vocalists have been few and far between in
jazz, with one singer generally dominating each generation.
Without a great deal of recognition Jamie Davis has
honed his skills so that he can now confidently step
into the role as the dominant voice of his day.
Basie trumpeter Scotty Barnhart, a man who knows his
way around music as well as anyone says of this date,
"From the very first note of whatever you put on,
I guarantee you'll feel better from listening to it."
One would be hard put to argue with him. Just
one listen to the sound of Jamie Davis and you'll agree.
It's a very good thing.