Warm Spring Night

Philip Chaffin

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Warm Spring Night Review

by William Ruhlmann

Philip Chaffin's first album, Where Do I Go from You?, was a collection of mid-20th century film songs set to big band arrangements, an appropriate throwback for a well-trained tenor perfectly capable of re-creating the vocal approach of the "boy singers" who populated the Swing Era and contributed vocal choruses to the pop hits of the day. For his second album, Warm Spring Night, Chaffin, whose background is in musical theater, puts together a more varied collection almost entirely given over to show tunes, dating all the way back to George and Ira Gershwin's "Evening Star" from the 1924 show Lady, Be Good! (a song that, amazingly, has never been recorded before) and all the way up to "If It Is True" from Ricky Ian Gordon's 2003 musical My Life with Albertine (the premiere recording of which has been issued by PS Classics, a label in which Chaffin is one of the principals). In between are a couple of songs from Alan Menken and Tim Rice's 1997 musical King David, in which Chaffin appeared as part of the ensemble, as well as songs from the 1920s, '30s, '40s, '60s, and '70s. For the most part, Chaffin eschews well-known numbers, preferring to put his stamp on worthy but obscure compositions by major writers like Jerome Kern and Stephen Sondheim. But no matter what he's singing, Chaffin always comes off like the young male lead in a musical, singing in a highly theatrical, somewhat mannered style that emphasizes the musicality of his voice and the material at the expense of any sense of true emotional connection. It's easy to imagine him performing in a revival of a '20s musical that calls upon him to play the earnest, innocent, romantic young man whose idealized love for an equally innocent young woman will be fulfilled at the curtain. It's a technically accomplished, utterly artificial approach to performing that shows the songs off to great advantage, while never for a moment causing the listener to suppose that he means a word he's singing.

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