With Forever, For Always, For Luther a blockbuster gathering of smooth jazz stars takes turns paying tribute to R&B vocal legend Luther Vandross, performing ten of his most popular hits. The featured instrumentalists on the album are the crème-de-la-crème of the smooth jazz world, with dozens of top-charting, top-selling albums and countless hit singles among them. They are masters of bringing the soulful inflections of the great R&B singers to instrumental music and, in paying tribute to Vandross they are honoring one of their primary inspirations.
Producers Rex Rideout and Bud Harner carefully recruited people who have worked with Vandross over the years and focused on songs written or co-written by Vandross. Rideout, producer, keyboardist, arranger, and songwriter on dozens of smooth jazz and R&B albums, has co-authored songs and contributed arrangements and keyboards to Luther’s last three albums, including two songs on Dance With My Father. Mix engineer Ray Bardani has recorded and mixed most of Vandross’s output. Guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. has likewise appeared on most of Vandross’s recordings.
The album title is taken from the title track to Vandross’s best-selling 1982 album Forever, For Always, For Love and is movingly performed on this album by vocalist Lalah Hathaway, daughter of the great Donny Hathaway. The other vocal on the album is “My Sensitivity” performed by the remarkable new R&B singer Ledisi.
In addition to his many top solo outings, saxophonist Kirk Whalum has brought his gospel-inflected tenor playing to countless R&B projects, including six Luther Vandross albums. He opens the CD with a romantic version of “Any Love”, the #1 hit single from Vandross’s 1988 release of the same title. Paul Jackson, Jr. takes the lead on a spunky, up-tempo version of “Never Too Much”, another title track that was a #1 hit single in 1981. Saxist Boney James evokes Luther’s seductive vocals on “Wait for Love”, #11 R&B single from the #1 R&B album, 1985’s The Night I Fell in Love.
In 2003, alto saxophonist Mindi Abair took the smooth jazz world by storm with the fresh sound of her debut album, and she brings the same crackling fresh funkiness to her uptempo take on “Stop to Love”. Abair’s sultry background vocals spice the track, which was a #1 R&B single from “Give Me the Reason” in 1986. Pianist Brian Culbertson and saxophonist Dave Koz makes a dreamy slow-dance of “If Only for One Night” from 1985’s The Night I Fell in Love. Tenor sax man Richard Elliot wails soulfully on “Your Secret Love”, title song from the hit 1996 album. Elliot is supported by Luther Vandross’s original arrangement for background vocals for the track, sung by his long-time backup singers: Lisa Fischer, Cindy Mizelle, Brenda White-King, and Fonzi Thornton. Guitar legend George Benson quietly dazzles on the ballad “Take You Out” from the #7 R&B single from the hit 2001 album Luther Vandross.