A fixture on the Kansas City jazz scene for 20 years, singer David Basse has been compared to the likes of a wide array of vocalists from Dr. John and Mel Torme to Ray Charles and Al Jarreau. If you listen to his latest CD, Uptown, you can understand why. The man is a vocal chameleon who seems able to color his voice to the demands of his musical surroundings. You never know which voice you’re going to hear. If you like versatility in a jazz singer, you want to give Basse’s latest a listen.
The album features 12 tracks, more than half of which are originals: five by pianist Mike Melvoin, one by Mark Winkler, and one from Frank Smith. The remaining five are old standards and a jazz classic. You take a song like the Frank Loesser chestnut “Slow Boat to China” and you can hear a little Louis Prima or even old Satchmo, but then on “52nd & Broadway” you can hear something that sounds a lot more like a bopping Mel Torme. “Parker’s Mood” has moments when you can hear a little Joe Williams. In “The Blues Don’t Care” you might even catch a tinge of Nat ‘King’ Cole. There’s even a little Tom Waits on “You Won’t Hear Me Say Goodbye.” Listening to Basse is listening to a singer who has assimilated influences from more than a few of the finest jazz singers of the past. This is not to say that he is imitating them. He has taken these influences and built them into a style all his own.
He is joined on the album by Melvoin on the piano, Steve Gilmore on bass and drummer Bill Goodwin. Grammy winner Phil Woods plays alto sax on four tracks and clarinet on two. His solo work on “Slow Boat to China,” “Parker’s Mood” and the title song prove to be some of the disc’s highlights. Melvoin adds some nice work on the piano as well. They work well together and provide a tight complement for Basse’s vocals. “Like Jazz,” the Winkler original, shows off the entire ensemble to great advantage.
Basse is a classy vocalist who knows his way around a song, and his album shows the breadth of talent available around the country. Kansas City has long been known as a jazz hotbed and David Basse’s latest will give you a good idea why.