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Critics' Choice
CLINT HOLMES' MASTER CLASS
3/13/17

Clint Holmes is one of those guys.

You might say he’s one of the Vegas guys, in the sense that he kills in a room full of fans dying for a bit of that classic ring-a-ding-ding. But more importantly, he’s one of a diminishing group of masterful singers who can tackle the American songbook with aplomb, wrapping his supple pipes around the standards and conjuring new revelations from their timeless melodies. At the same time, he has the dexterity to bring nuance and grace to contemporary pop.

His new set, Rendezvous (LL Music), showcases that versatility to splendid effect. Produced by Gregg Field and featuring collaborators like The Count Basie Orchestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Patti Austin, Jane Monheit, Ledisi, Joey DeFrancesco and Dave Koz, the album elegantly bridges the gap between midcentury jazz and modern songcraft. The arrangements skew intimate, giving Holmes’ masterful vocals plenty of room; witness his lovely, understated take on "My Way," his glorious "Maria," his aching duet with Monheit on “Every Time We Say Goodbye” or the expert dynamics of “What You Leave Behind,” featuring lyrics by Holmes and music by Koz (who supplies the sax solo). He offers a little backstory with the recitative at the top of “At the Rendezvous,” buoyed by DeFrancesco’s grooving B-3, before plunging, beautifully, into its bluesy depths (and yes, Holmes scats like a motherfucker); that number alone is a master class in jazz singing. He even takes on the A Great Big World hit “Say Something” with Ledisi, transforming it into an Al Green-like soul confection.

All in all, it’s a bracing reminder that jazz—in the hands of the finest singers—can still feel as fresh as a new moon.