Michael Brecker

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8/19/2003
Aaron Neville Explores Nature Of Jazz Sounds
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Aaron Neville Explores 'Nature' of Jazz Standards
Mon August 18, 2003 07:40 PM ET
By Chris Morris LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Anyone who recalls Aaron Neville's rendition of "Star Dust" on Rob Wasserman's 1989 album "Duets" or Neville's cover of "These Foolish Things" on his own 1993 collection "The Grand Tour" recognizes that the New Orleans singer knows his way around a standard. So Neville's Verve album "Nature Boy: The Standards Album," which arrives Aug. 26, will please fans of the versatile vocalist who have always longed to hear him wrap his distinctive pipes around more tunes from the great American songbook. "Me and my brother Charles have been talking about doing some stuff like this for a while," Neville says. "We were just waiting for the chance. Ron Goldstein came up with the idea." Neville has a long history with some of the songs on the set. He has performed "The Very Thought of You," "Cry Me a River" and "Summertime" since his club days in the Crescent City. The old Nat "King" Cole hit "Nature Boy" was one of his father's favorite songs, while his mother was fond of New Orleans vocalist Annie Laurie's version of "Since I Fell for You." Produced by keyboardist Rob Mounsey, "Nature Boy" places Neville in an intimate combo setting, occasionally dressed with subdued string arrangements. The players are top-flight. The core band includes Mounsey, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Grady Tate. Guests include Neville's long-running duet partner Linda Ronstadt, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, tenorist Michael Brecker, guitarist Ry Cooder and fellow Neville Brother Charles. Neville says of the jazz heavies who sat in, "I call 'em 'hard hitters at the bat.' I'd heard of Grady Tate and Ron Carter. I hadn't heard of Anthony Wilson, but he is tremendous. He is outta sight, man. And Rob, he has done some unbelievable stuff." The jazzmen would often lend a hand in the studio, according to Neville: "Grady Tate gave me some pointers. He was showin' me the right note to hit on 'Cry Me a River.' I found out later he's a great singer. Him and Ron Carter helped me along." Neville immediately suggested a reunion with Ronstadt, his partner on the Grammy Award-winning 1989 hit "Don't Know Much," for "Nature Boy." "I love singin' with her," he says of Ronstadt, who appears on "The Very Thought of You." "We complement each other. She brings somethin' out of me, and I bring somethin' out of her ... She's a belter. She's got a great voice, she can reach these heavy notes, but when she sings with me, she comes down and gets tender. It's like a marriage of the voices." Neville is maintaining a busy schedule with his family band, but he will do special nights of the "Nature Boy" material Oct. 16-18 at Birdland in New York. The shows will feature performers on the album and possibly some special guests. Reuters/Billboard
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