In A Mellow Tone

Ben Black

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In A Mellow Tone Review

by Alex Henderson

Short of Jimmy Scott, you were unlikely to find a more feminine-sounding male jazz singer in the 1990s than Ben Black, who shows a great deal of promise on his debut album, In A Mellow Tone. Much like Scott--one of his main influences--the charismatic Black often sounds like he could be a woman, and he uses the influence of great female singers (especially Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington) to his creative advantage. This isn't to say that Black is without male influences--Scott, of course, is a male, and there also traces of Mel Torme in his phrasing. But comparing Black to Scott, Holiday, Torme, Washington or anyone else shouldn't obscure the fact that he is quite recognizable himself. Black's intimate, highly personal interpretations of "I Cover The Waterfront," "For All We Know" and "Night and Day" are clearly the work of a singer who has found his own voice early in his career. This excellent CD shows him to be a soulful interpreter of lyrics, and his scat singing is straight-forward and uncomplicated. When In A Mellow Tone came out in the late 1990s, Black was little known outside of Seattle--one hoped that eventually, he would have a higher profile nationally.