Nicolas Bearde: Visions (2013)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
First the good news: Nicolas Bearde, former back-up singer with Bobby McFerrin, is blessed with a deep, dark, romantic voice reminiscent of Lou Rawls and on this album, which seeks to blend soul with jazz, he is backed by some of the best studio musicians on the West Coast.
Now the bad news: his voice here lacks both expression and range. On Errol Garner's "Misty" Bearde ducks the famous opening melody, where the words "Look at me..." are meant to rise from B flat ninth to E flat major seventh, and attempts a rather mundane "soul" treatment of the song even though his heart blatantly isn't in it. His cry of "Oooh!" before and grunts of approval during Dave Mathews' organ solo just don't ring true.
Worse, there's his version of Bernard Ighner's "Everything Must Change," the unofficial anthem of the Obama era. It took an artist of the caliber of Oleta Adams to successfully resurrect this marvelous song in 1990, successfully braving comparisons with versions by Quincy Jones, Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone. Bearde doesn't have the class to work the same oracle in the third millennium.
After reducing "Everything Must Change" to cocktail bar fodder, he goes on to gut that wonderfully enigmatic protest song "Compared To What" of all the barely controlled anger Gene McDaniels put into it.
He is far more at home on a second Bernard Ighner song, "(And ) It All Goes 'Round and 'Round," a slow ballad that, in terms of expression, calls only for resignation. He also turns in creditable versions of Earth, Wind and Fire's "Mighty Mighty" from 1974 and Stevie Wonder's plaintive "Visions," which came out a year earlier.
And he does an excellent job on two of his own compositions, "Falling In Love Again" and "If You Were Mine," both of which are straight love songs.
Bearde does have a very warm voice and the album is extremely well produced but, in the final analysis, the dominant feeling is one of missed opportunity.
Track Listing: Falling In Love Again; You’re Sensational; Misty; Everything Must
Change; The Best Things In Life Are Free; (And) It All Goes ’Round And
’Round; If You Were Mine; Never Let Me Go; Mighty Mighty; You Better
Compared To What; Visions.
Personnel: Nicolas Bearde: vocals; Larry Batiste, Jeanie Tracey, Kimiko Joy:
back-up vocals; Gino Blacknell: strings; Louis Fasman, Bill Ortiz:
trumpet; Mike Rinta: trombone; Doug Rowan, Gary Meek: saxophone; John
R Burr, David Garfield, Peter Horvath, Dave Mathews, Glen Pearson:
keyboards; John Hoy, Kleber Jorge, Lorn Leber: guitar; Gary Brown,
Nelson Braxton, Alphonso Johnson, Marcus Shelby, John Witala: bass;
Deszon Claborne, Will Kennedy, Mike Shapiro, Akira Tana: drums; Mike
Record Label: Right Groove Records
Style: Modern Jazz