Phil Kidder

Simple Pleasures

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In the 1990s, male singers were a minority in the jazz world. For every male jazz vocalist who started recording (Kurt Elling, Giacomo Gates, Lou Lanza, among others), there were countless female vocalists. So when a new male jazz singer came along, you were anxious to check him out. Such was the case with Phil Kidder, a jazz-singing male who made his recording debut with Simple Pleasures. This is a pleasant but extremely conventional debut -- the Chicagoan tackles a lot of warhorses that have been done to death over the years (including "All the Things You Are," "Body and Soul," and "How High the Moon"), and he doesn't do anything new or different with them. In the late '90s, did the jazz world really need to hear so many overdone standards performed the same old way? That said, Kidder has potential. The singer is capable of vulnerability, and he favors a youthful, sensitive approach that is somewhere between early Jimmy Scott and early Chet Baker. So the talent is there, but it needs to be developed and nurtured. Kidder would do well to cut way back on the warhorses, find some underexposed gems, and set out to record definitive interpretations -- many jazz greats did that, and Kidder must do the same. Despite its shortcomings, Simple Pleasures makes listeners want to keep an eye on Kidder and see how he develops.

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