Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nicolas Bearde Swinging Lou Rawls Tribute

I was not familiar with vocalist Nicolas Bearde prior to receiving a copy off his new CD, Live at Yoshi’s: A Salute to Lou (Right Groove). Bearde is a multi-talented gentleman who as a vocalist is a member of Bobby McFerrin’s world renowned and innovative a cappella vocal ensemble, “Voicestra,” since the 1980s as well as his own solo career. He also is an actor who has appeared on radio plays with Danny Glover, on such TV series as “Monk” and “Nash Bridges,” and movies like “Pacific Heights,” and “True Crimes.”

He started his Right Groove label, and this is his third CD, based on the Tribute to Lou Rawls, he has been presenting around the country, showcasing a variety of songs associated with the late great soul/jazz vocalist along with a bit of Bill Withers and Max Roach/Abbey Lincoln (I am paraphrasing his website on this point). This live recording at Yoshi’s, the fabled Oakland jazz club, has him backed by a terrific, swinging quartet of saxophonist Charles McNeal; pianist Glenn Pearson; bassist Nelson Braxton; and drummer Jason Lewis.

The mood is set with the opening Roach/Lincoln song, Living Room. He is a marvelous singer, reminiscent perhaps more of a Joe Williams than the deeper voiced Rawls, although like both the blues is part of his performing foundation. He nicely handles “Girl from Ipanema, as well as Lady Love, one of Rawls hits during the disco era which here is turned into a samba-tinged number.

As good as the band is, this listener found saxophonist McNeal especially marvelous behind the vocals and his solos. And like Rawls and Williams, Bearde shines on ballads like The Shadow of Your Smile. The center of this disc is Oscar Brown’s World of Trouble and Lou’s Medley, where Bearde revives Rawls classics including This Song Will Last Forever, Love is a Hurtin’ Thing, I Want to Be Tobacco Road, and You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine. A vigorous rendition of the Eddie Miller penned blues, I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water, concludes this excellent set.

Bearde brings warmth, soul and personality to these performances which certainly provide a memorable tribute to one of the great vocalists of the past few decades. This is available on itunes and from cdbaby.com among other sources. His website is www.nicolasbearde.com.

This review originally appeared in the August 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 307) and I believe the publication supplied the review copy. While not from Yoshi's, here Nicolas Bearde performs I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water.

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