Eric Felten

Nowhere Without You

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Based in Washington, D.C., Eric Felten previously recorded a couple of fine albums as leader on the Soul Note label with outstanding sidemen of national stature. For this one, the gifted trombonist reinvents himself, discarding a modern jazz style in favor of one with roots in the swing era. Felten's trombone makes the adjustment easily with a gorgeous, smooth tone. The bigger surprise, though, is his talent as a crooner, as his silky, steady voice evidences a creamy consistency that brings to mind the best vocalists of the 1930s and 1940s. The classically trained Felten hits the mark with perfect intonation and an almost sleepy, laid-back, unemotional demeanor that defines the essence of cool. The players are culled from the local scene, and they offer more than adequate support, with excellent contributions, in particular, from trombonist Doug Elliott and saxophonist Scott Silbert. Brent Wallarab's full arrangements do a good job of expanding the sound of what is never more than an octet, but the music cries out for a much bigger band. Most of the tunes will not be recognized by modern ears, but all were hand-picked by Felten for their lyricism, and as part of the theme of love songs from a bygone era. Comparisons to Harry Connick, and even Frank Sinatra or Tommy Dorsey, are not so far-fetched, and this transitional album is a good move for the talented Felten, and a strong debut for him as a singer, while presaging more to come.