T.J. Graham

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This 2002 release by vocalist T.J. Graham and guitarist Rory Stuart might ordinarily appear to be a tad outside of the box when compared to this label's largely avant-garde jazz-based catalog. Memphis, TN-based jazz vocalist/educator Graham is a relatively unknown artist who caught the attention of producer Robert Rusch, while Stuart has previously recorded for both the CIMP and Cadence Jazz labels. The majority of these 17 tracks represent something akin to a standards-type songbook. On "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons," Ms. Graham's impassioned manner of spinning a tune comes to fruition, whereby Stuart is the consummate accompanist, whether performing on his hollow-bodied electric or his acoustic guitar. He also maintains the various flows via his articulately executed chord progressions and agile voicings. Simply put, the duo conveys a distinct air of intimacy, as if Graham and Stuart moved two chairs together and decided to tackle these pieces in an impromptu fashion (although it is duly noted that the twosome spent several months working out the arrangements prior to production). On this affable outing marked by few deviations from the norm, the duo's noticeable synergy and organic approach to the material provide the winning edge.