Tenor Noah Stewart, a native of Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood, has won raves not only in the U.S. but in Britain, where he became the first black artist to hit the number-one spot on classical sales charts. Stewart delivers the goods, and you'll certainly be hearing his name more frequently in the future; he has the elusive star quality connected with making notes throughout his considerable range seem easy. Stewart's roots are in jazz, and he certainly executes in the crossover material here, which you might call updated Mario Lanza. In the mid-range on a piece like Without a Song he's quite affecting, although he can tend toward the gimmicky; Nights in White Satin gains nothing from being sung in Italian. Where you really sit up and take notice, though, is in the operatic selections and in other songs where he really gets to stretch out into his top register. It's difficult to pull off The Star-Spangled Banner [on the U.S. Verve release] in a fresh way, but Stewart's combination of smoothness and power is undeniably compelling. He appears to be plunging right into opera, with appearances at major houses in both the U.S. and Britain, and his "Recondita Armonia" leaves you eager to hear more straight opera. This young tenor already delivers the goods and deserves his commercial success; he may well rise to the top of his profession.
by James Manheim