By Taylor Jordan
Steve Tyrells voice aint perfect, but it is the best male voice heard in jazz in many years.
Although a popular producer and record company executive with the cutting edge ability to recognize and promote others talents for many years, Tyrells name was not a household word in America.
The man, as singer in the spotlight, is new. The songs are old. Together, Tyrell and the great American jazz standards are magnificent.
When his first album, A New Standard, hit the airwaves and record stores in early 2000, it went to instant top-of-the-chart success. What has kept that debut album in the pinnacle position of jazz vocal recordings for nearly 80 weeks, caused its sequel Standard Time to equally burst the charts wide open and endeared him to critics and fans.
What will assure his continued success was clearly visible and audible at his March 7 concert at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. Quite simply, it is the man himself and the music he sings.
Not since Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan captured and conveyed the essence of American song books, has a male jazz vocalist so aptly and expertly served us such timeless, tasty tunes.
Excellent enunciation -- sorely missing in a world filled with mediocre and just-plain-bad singing by industry picked mass marketed and got-to-be-excessively-sexy-cause-you-cant-sing singers -- enables audiences to understand each and every word Tyrell sings or speaks.
His unabashed love of the music he sings, respect and reverence for the men and women who composed, sang and played it and natural, easy, relaxed, playful and sincere interaction with an appreciation for his audiences will all keep his star high in the sky. Fortunately, his ego will be grounded in his own humility and adoration of the music.
That is the magic of Steve Tyrell.
What makes music classic is its ability to stir similar emotions across the tapestry of time. Does the song stimulate squirming sensuality? Does it always bring tears to someones eyes? Can one sigh and smile the same way 50 years later that someone else sighed and smiled 50 years earlier? Does it transport you through a time warp and let you clearly see the face of a long ago love? Is the power and passion of the words still present and palpable for generations of listeners?
Check the yes box on all of the above when Steve Tyrell sings standards that evolved into classics.
He claims the song as his own, holds the lyrics within his heart to fully feel them and, once felt, lets us feel it, too. It is a magical exchange, rare always and more so in these days of mediocrity given popular credence by a multitude of fans seemingly without ears, understanding of whats in-tune and out-of-tune and easily distracted by dripping-with-nasty choreography from gyrating groins on damn-near-naked bodies.
Tyrell sings each song as though hes testifying personally to the love he intensely feels for his wife, Stephanie. He wraps his whole being around the lyrics and resurrects a range of fantastic emotions. He enhances those feelings by selecting co-performance and recording artists whove passionately played the same notes so well theyve rightfully earned legendary status in the annals of musical history. He turns pages into anecdotal stories behind the making of the music and connects with an audience he regards as warmly as old friends.
These are the things that have Tyrells songs playing at weddings, softly setting sensuous moods for hot-tub romance and giving everyone who hears him That Old Feeling of love and completeness.
Then theres that smile. So wide, open and radiant it could melt an Arctic iceberg.
Tyrell sings from the depths of his spiritual self, emotional commitments to people and the music and willingness to pull out all the stops. And he possesses those same characteristics in his recorded self and live concerts, alternately causing people to sway or swoon.
Tyrell proves in each song that love aint gone nowhere. In this mad world of conflict and confrontation, everyone still needs it, wants it, rejoices when they find it and cries when its gone.
Thats the stuff that gave Tyrell a double encore at Cerritos and continued chart success. If you havent heard him, RUN to the record stores and pray his records are in stock. If not, order. Your heart wont regret it.
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