This is veteran singer Bob Stewart's third album for the VWC label. It is a compilation of two sessions recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder studios in 1986 and 1990. Stewart is a bit of an anomaly on today's singing scene in that he is a saloon singer, which can be best described as the male counterpart of the female cabaret singer. He has those mannerisms which characterize this genre of performer, like the small, extra surprise vocal annotations appended to the end of a tune. Listen to "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" to see how this mannerism can add something special to an otherwise familiar and often recorded tune, bringing the performance outside of the realm of the ordinary. This is not to say that Stewart has incorporated unnecessary affectations to his singing. His delivery reflects the influence of the great male vocalists like Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, and Frank Sinatra (hear Sinatra's influence in "Alone Together"). Nonetheless, there are aspects about Stewart's singing which are uniquely his own; one of them is the way he interacts with the musicians who are backing him. His voice works as an integral part of the group, rather than apart from it, as evidenced in his interplay with Mel Lewis' brushes on "Skylark" and on an uptempo version of "Secret Love."
For this session, Stewart has surrounded himself with outstanding jazz players. Frank Wess' tenor complements Stewart on several tunes, but it is especially telling on "Body and Soul." His flute flutters behind Stewart on "Don't Misunderstand" which is one of the two cuts with string arrangements, the other being "Did I Remember." These two are the most dramatic performances on the disc. Ubiquitous bass player Michael Moore and Lewis provide a solid foundation for the session. However, it is master jazz pianist Hank Jones who makes this album work, gleaming in a role he has occupied many times over his long career as the piano player behind the singer. Jones has also brought his style, grace, and sensitivity to the albums of such vocal stalwarts as Ella Fitzgerald, Chris Connor, Mel Torme, and Johnny Hartman. Right from the first cut "September in the Rain" to the album's coda "In a Sentimental Mood," Jones sets the stage for Stewart's vocal interpretations. He also gets several solo opportunities, as on "Close Your Eyes" and "Alone Togther."
With a play list of 14 solid standards, along with Stewart's strong but understated reading of the material and the presence of fine musicians, Take Two is an album which belongs in the collection of every lover of the jazz vocal.