(4 / 5)
A pretty apt title for respected Cincinnati-born, Chicago-based jazz trumpeter and singer Andrew Distel’s new album, “It Only Takes Time”, considering there has been a 10 year wait for his second album.
The follow-up to the debut, “Stepping Out Of A Dream” in 2007, the new one has a sparkling team of ‘A List’ players joining Andrew on the 11 cuts. It features mainstays on the Chicago jazz scene George Fludas on drums and Grammy-winner Jim Gailloreto on woodwinds and string arrangements.
Jim wrote the string arrangements for Kurt Elling’s Grammy-winning album, “Dedicated To You”. Jim wrote the string arrangements, horn parts and played the woodwind parts for Andrew’s album.
In addition to the Chicago musicians, renowned pianist and Grammy-winner Peter Martin – who performed on and arranged Diane Reeves’ Grammy-winning CD, “Good Night and Good Luck”, the soundtrack from the George Clooney film – and respected Grammy-winning bassist Carlos Enriquez (Wynton Marsalis Septet and Lincoln Center Orchestra) sprinkle their magic throughout the album.
Dave Onderdonk provides a beautiful solo on the opening track, “Speak Low”. He began his career as a classical guitarist before switching to jazz guitar more than 30 years ago. Dave has played with Kurt Elling and Cassandra Wilson among many jazz luminaries.
Grammy-winner Howard Levy (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) supplies an energetic harmonica feature on “Into Each Life”. Percussion is tastefully added by Geraldo de Oliveira throughout the album. Brazilian percussionist Geraldo played on the final album from legendary big band drummer Buddy Rich, as a guest artist.
“It Only Takes Time” is more the richer for the luscious 10-piece string section: seven violins, two violas and a cellist. Raphael Crawford delivers trombone and Brian Schwab is on trumpet and co-produces the album with Bob Bowker. Bob has worked with dozens of jazz,classical and pop singers, such as superstar Barbra Streisand. Now, she can sing a bit!
Andrew focuses mainly on the lead vocal, but as an accomplished trumpeter, he plays a smattering across the record. He follows a tradition of trumpet players who are also pretty decent singers: Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Till Bronner and Jack Sheldon among them.
But it is this glorious voice which holds the attention and makes a huge impression here, from start to finish. Opening with the Kurt Weil and Ogden Nash song, “Speak Low” which is a good fit for Andrew’s vocal-stylings. The album closes proceedings with the Johnny Mandel and Dave Frishberg composition, “You Are There”.
He has a smoother, softer, less-Sinatra, more-Michael Buble delivery than the great Kurt Elling – but of the same quality and skills. A calming, soothing and at times, quite mesmerising voice.
One of those occasions where, as a music journalist for four decades next year and taking pride in “discovering” future stars on the rise; I wonder how come I didn’t come across this fantastic singer before. Glad I have now…
Andrew’s parents are educators and music lovers, encouraging all four sons to learn a musical instrument. Andrew, the only one who had an abiding interest in music, taught himself to play his brother’s trumpet by imitating Chuck Mangione records.
He joined the school band and took taking private music lessons. He continued his music studies and played trumpet in various bands throughout his years in public school, but singing was also a passion, and he sang in several choirs.
Andrew began paying clubs as a trumpet player, vocalist and bandleader while attending College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. After graduating, in 2000 he moved to Chicago to continue his education at Roosevelt University.
On this new record: “that difficult second album”………………There’s a sensitivity, a fragility and even a little vulnerability in Andrew’s vocal – and probably a few other words that end in “ty”, that I cannot think of right now!
A song that has been covered to death, gets a fresh and charming treatment from Andrew; the Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis classic, “Alfie” – made famous by the UK’s late Liverpool songbird, Cilla Black. Andrew’s graceful approach maintains the romance, but no hint of schmaltz.
He effortlessly takes us through “One Morningstar Away”, penned by David Linx and Diederik Wissels, “Amor” by Ivan Lins and then his own song, “Wait For Me” which he wrote with J. Adams Oaks.
George and Ira Gershwin’s “Who Cares”, precedes “Too Soon to Tell” by Mike Reid and Rory Michael Bourke. I am assuming that this Mike Reid is the same guy who wrote the wonderful “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, which Bonnie Raitt and Adele both had hits with. My old friend Albert Lee played on the demo to that song, as a neighbour of Mike’s in L.A.
Another old classic gets a fresh treatment, when Andrew and the ensemble tackle The Platter’s “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, or rather the 1933 Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach classic, which The Platters had a smash hit with in 1958.
Andrew wrote the second of his own cuts on this record, “Your Last Song”, with Kenny Dorham and J. Adams Oaks. The penultimate track is “Into Each Life”, composed by Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts.
The two main factors that make this guy a cut above the rest, is his vocal control and his immaculate phrasing. Maybe three factors, come to think about it; his stunning tone too, of course.
At 41-years-old, musically he has one foot in the vintage and retro camp, the other is firmly entrenched in a contemporary epoch. Which keeps what he does and how he does it, far enough away from “easy listening” to target a mainstream market and a wide age group, commercially.
At such a young age for this type of jazz, he sounds like a veteran who’s got many more miles on the clock. The UK’s own Brendan Reilly and Andrew Distel both have that innate versatility, that adds the soulfulness to the core jazz sentiments that should by rights, make this lovely music appeal to a broad range of music fans.
The mixed bag of material – from the old standards to the newer stuff – has huge value added by the non-fat arrangements and the world class players giving their all. Everyone goes above and beyond the call of duty here, but there’s palpable chemistry to make this more than a major solo talent backed by top end session musicians.
- I do have to single out Peter Martin; who is simply stunning on that old Joanna. Will be checking out if he has made any albums where he is the name up in lights.
They are not trying to reinvent the wheel here, create a new genre or do anything other than deliver superb music in the very best way they can; which in turn gives us a world class end result, and uncovers a rising star in Andrew Distel.
But back to that voice of Mr Distel’s: We may well have just found ‘the next big thing’ in male jazz singers. Chicago’s best kept secret is out. ‘Micky Bubbles’ better watch his back!
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’