Sometimes the world just kicks you in the ass. A look at the newspapers can be hard to bear, as violent events and frightening human behaviour often read like something out of a horror movie as opposed to something genuine. Perhaps reality is the horror movie.
At times like these, I turn to the arts for direction and, more importantly, for healing. Film, literature, and music all have the philosophical ability to offer us what we seek. For a broken heart, a film can bring conclusion. For a disillusioned and discouraged soul, a great book can bring tenderness and comfort. And for a bleak and itinerant romantic, a beautiful song can bring it all.
When jazz vocalist Jamie Davis’ new CD, Vibe Over Perfection, came across my desk, I was in need of revival. Mentally, I was in the dumps. Yeah, I’m not ashamed to say it. On impulse, I slid the disc into the player, cranked the surround sound, and poured myself a cup of coffee.
You know how people say that they have moments where every cloud in the sky simply dissipates and reveals a soft, radiant, warm sun underneath? You know how when people say that, you just wanna punch ‘em in the nose and say “Shaddap!” and get back to your slouching and pouting? Well since listening to Vibe Over Protection, I’ve been ducking punches all day long!
Davis has performed with the likes of Tony Bennett, Milt Jackson, Patti Austin, and Rosemary Clooney, to name a few, and his stunning baritone is to die for. He wraps his words around the melody, sliding the lyrics underneath the song and becoming part of the music rather than overcoming it. Davis is so smooth, so vibrant, and so clever that I couldn’t help breaking out in a huge smile.
Vibe Over Perfection is Davis’ second CD on Unity Music. Produced by Greg Errico, the former drummer for Sly and the Family Stone, this is a great jazz vocal album. Davis is backed by a slew of world-class musicians, including Tom Scott and members of the Count Basie Orchestra. As a result of this unimpeachable talent and Davis’ shimmering voice, this music swings hard.
An alumnus of the Count Basie Band himself, Davis lets loose on eight tracks with precision vocals and delightful timing. Take what he does with Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello,” for instance. Wonderfully arranged by Aaron Lington, the song features an extended instrumental portion. Davis’ vocals are emotional and he almost pleads with the listener as he intones the classic lyrics.
Other tracks hold similar treasures. There’s the record’s opening assessment of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” a jazzy little ditty, and the gorgeous and poignant Bacharach hit “The Look of Love.”
All in all, Jamie Davis’ elegant and deep delivery is the perfect solution for dreary, dark skies. He sings with a sense of calm, but never neglects to put authority and energy behind each and every note. Davis is a rare talent and deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence alongside greats like Joe Williams and Lou Rawls.
Vibe Over Perfection is a terrific record, although I wish there was more to it. At just eight tracks and slightly over a half-hour, I could have used a lot more Jamie Davis. Ah well, I guess that’s what the repeat button’s for.