Tom Wopat may forever be known for his role on the television series The Duke of Hazzard, but he has long since established himself as a star in Broadway musicals, appearing in revivals of Annie Get Your Gun and 42nd Street, among others. So it should not be surprising that he would record a follow-up CD (after Still of the Night) devoted to works from the Great American Songbook, in this case, a tribute to the centennial of Harold Arlen's birth. Wopat doesn't have a huge vocal range, so he doesn't venture too far from the melody. But from the opening track, he enjoys throwing off the expectations of the audience, proving himself in a jazz setting while performing both standards and obscurities by Arlen. He is also joined by some top-notch jazz musicians, including pianists Gil Goldstein or Todd Firth, bassists Marc Johnson or Ed Howard, drummer Antonio Sanchéz or Peter Grant, saxophonists Bob Malach or Sam Arlen (the composer's son, who released his own tribute to his father just a month or two ahead of Wopat), plus vibraphonist Michael Manieri. Wopat delights in Goldstein's unusual arrangement of "That Old Black Magic," which features an undercurrent of Thelonious Monk, while he is equally inspired interpreting the bluesy scoring of the infrequently performed "Dissertation on the State of Bliss (Love and Learn)." Wopat is obviously having a blast in Firth's brisk swinging setting of "If I Only Had a Brain," which also has some fine solos by the band. The singer restores the usually omitted verse to "Over the Rainbow," easily eclipsing many better-known singers' recordings of this timeless ballad. His sense of desire is sincere in the deliberate setting of "Come Rain or Come Shine," though it is hard to top his heartfelt closing duet with Firth on "Last Night When We Were Young." Tom Wopat may not technically be a jazz singer, but jazz fans deserve to give this fine effort a hearing. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden