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Music Review: Mitchel Forman – Sing Along with Mitch

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What we have with Sing Along with Mitch is a delicate, beautiful collection of piano and vocal duets. Simple as that.

And yet in this humble presentation, pianist and vocal accompanist Mitchel Forman does so much. I have to cop to not having heard of most of the vocalists featured on the record. Forman’s work alongside the likes of Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, John Scofield, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra goes without saying. He has also played with some of the best vocalists around, including Al Jarreau, Frankie Valli, Mel Torme, and Amy Winehouse.

Forman’s role on Sing Along with Mitch is deviously modest. His piano and vocal accompaniment is more than just a background to the prominent vocalists; he provides edging, dexterously delineating the tinges of these jazz and pop standards while letting the singers draw their own implications.

Up first is Arnold McCuller with “Dear Prudence.” The Cleveland-born vocalist has served as a back-up vocalist to a diverse group of artists, including Beck and Phil Collins, and toured for 30 years with James Taylor. He has one of those voices that most have heard but many may not be able to place, with his performance on Taylor’s “Shower the People” serving as just one fabled example.

McCuller’s gentle, welcoming tone is a charming fit for the Beatles’ tune dedicated to Mia Farrow’s sister. The song is a form of supplication and McCuller handles it with discreet desperation, his vocal finesses touching on the virtue of the tune.

Steven Santoro, the Massachusetts-born singer, handles “Peace Train.” The Cat Stevens tune has never really been a favourite of mine and Santoro unfortunately doesn’t change things, with the song reaching slushy altitudes at times. Luckily he fares better with “And So It Goes,” giving the Billy Joel piece his own imprint and slipping beautifully along with Forman’s ivory strokes.

Tierney Sutton, a three-time Grammy nominee, sings “Turning Into Blue” and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life.” The latter, written by Michel Legrand for the film The Happy Ending, has been sung famously by Barbra Streisand, but Sutton puts her own stamp on it with this attentive rendition. She articulates exquisitely and pairs with Forman’s piano like fine wine pairs with great food.

Forman joins Lizzy Loeb for “Celebrate Me Home.” This track, an adult contemporary staple from the mind of Kenny Loggins, showcases the real find on this album for me. Loeb, a 25-year-old from New York City, carries an impeccable balance of pleasantness and magnetism in her tone, transforming the average Loggins fare into something with sizzle and smoke.

Sing Along with Mitch works as a series of cool arrangements showcasing a collection of vocalists you may or may not have heard of. Forman’s cool, ever-steady style on the keys lets the singers shine through, but he’s no slouch. It is his glow that serves as the centrepiece for the record, providing a firm foundation for some fine vocal performances you’ll want to hear again and again.

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About Jordan Richardson