Sachal Vasandani

Hi-Fly

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Many critics have lamented the relatively rare appearance of memorable male jazz vocalists over a stretch of several decades. Sachal Vasandani is a promising singer gifted with a wide range and an expressive, strong tone that brings out the essence of each lyric. His third CD finds him backed by pianist Jeb Patton (whose work with the Heath Brothers has garnered considerable praise), bassist David Wong, and drummer Kendrick Scott. The imaginative arrangement of the standard "The Very Thought of You" is a group effort with a strong assist from Erik Privert, utilizing a breezy Latin rhythm and featuring a potent backing line by guest John Ellis on tenor sax. Two duets feature the legendary vocalist Jon Hendricks: a hilarious rendition of "One Mint Julip," which also has some fun-filled scat singing by both men, and Randy Weston's "Hi-Fly," which adds a newly written lyric by Vasandani. The leader's rich voice is best on display with his thoughtful interpretation of "Here Comes the Honey Man" (a duet with Patton), which segues directly into "There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon for New York" (both pieces are from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess), the latter in which Vasandani's vocal sounds as if it has long been part of his repertoire. The singer also penned several originals, including the hip "Babe's Blues" (featuring the rising young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire) and the haunting, deliberate ballad "Flood." There's an obvious hint of Frank Sinatra in his moving performance of "All the Way," a duet with Patton that closes the album with a flourish.

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