Some people mistake being jazzy for actually singing jazz. Van Morrison, Anita Baker, Sade, and Sting are all jazzy, but they aren't hardcore jazz singers (which isn't to say that they are not capable of singing straight-ahead jazz -- Baker, in fact, has done it on occasion). In the early '90s, Curtis Stigers embraced jazzy pop/rock. But when his first Concord Jazz release, Baby Plays Around, came out in 2001, it was clear that he was capable of being more than just jazzy -- Baby Plays Around was definitely an album of straight-ahead acoustic jazz. And the singer continues in that direction on Secret Heart, his second Concord release. Naturally, some elitist bop snobs will view this album with suspicion -- their attitude is "once a pop singer, always a pop singer." But such thinking is silly. Stigers once again proves that he is quite capable of singing straight-ahead jazz and he demonstrates that having a pop/rock background doesn't mean that you have to stick to pop/rock all your life. As a jazz singer, Stigers isn't mind-blowing. But he's enjoyably swinging on familiar standards like "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home" and "My Foolish Heart." These songs definitely fall into the warhorse category -- they've been beaten to death over the years. But to his credit, Stigers doesn't limit himself to warhorses. He pleasantly surprises listeners by picking Dave Frishberg's "Sweet Kentucky Ham" and he successfully finds the jazz potential in Steve Earle's "Hometown Blues" and Randy Newman's "It's So Hard Living Without You." Secret Heart won't go down in history as the best vocal jazz album of 2002, but it's a respectable effort that makes one glad to see Stigers traveling in a jazz-oriented direction.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson