Better late than never. It’s about time. Some things are worth waiting for.
Whatever cliché comes to mind when you discover that it has taken more than 20 years for singer Bill Cote to make his album debut, perhaps the truest is long overdue. Where Do You Start has the veteran with the kind of rich voice that drips with a mellow richness that makes you think of a singer like Billy Eckstine working on a program of standards from the Great American Songbook, with one or two outliers.
Unlike some of today’s more outré vocalists, his interpretations are inventive while settled securely in the mainstream. A veteran performer, he knows there is a tradition, and he seems happy to work within it. After all, if the tradition encompasses the likes of Sinatra and Tony Bennett, what’s not to like?
The CD offers 16 tunes, just short of an hour and 15 minutes of excellent music. Cote is accompanied by pianist Tamir Hendelman, who also did the set’s exciting arrangements. He is joined by Joe LaBarbera on drums and bassist Martin Wind (who also played on the Ted Rosenthal Trio’s wonderful Gershwin album). There are also some guest appearances by Bob Sheppard on flute and sax, and guitarist Graham Dechter. Cote and the ensemble can swing with the best of them. On the one hand, witness their dynamic work on “Teach Me Tonight” and “Satin Doll.” On the other hand, they are equally at home delivering sensitive readings of tender ballads, like the subtle “When Do the Bells Ring for Me.”
Cote explains in the liner notes that the tunes on the album were all chosen because they have been about his life in one way or another. Some are personally significant. He sang “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” by way of proposing to his wife. The Victor Herbert chestnut “Indian Summer” was a favorite of his mother.
Some are musically significant. “When Sunny Gets Blue” was one of the first songs he sang publicly. “I Just Found Out About Love” was a vehicle for Shirley Horn, one of his favorite vocalists.
“I have lived,” he says, “with the songs on this album for many, many years. They all come from the heart.” Heartfelt performances of fine songs—this is a combination that’s hard to beat. And if it took more than 20 years to get them, well that’s the price you have to pay.
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