Sunday, May 16, 2021

James Hudson: “Tomorrow” (2021) CD Review

Jazz vocalist James Hudson gives us some wonderful versions of beloved standards on his debut release, Tomorrow. It is clear right from the start and with every word he delivers that James Hudson has a tremendous passion for these songs, and his renditions are both respectful and fresh. The joyous vibe of this album is due also to the fact that it was recorded with all the musicians playing together in the studio, rather than it being done instrument by instrument. Joining the vocalist on this album are Joe Hill on piano, Nick Fitch on guitar, Jack Tustin on bass, and Luke Tomlinson on drums.

This album gets off to an excellent start with a cool and lovely rendition of “Pennies From Heaven,” written by Arthur Johnson and Johnny Burke, this arrangement by Joe Hill and James Hudson. It begins sweetly, James Hudson’s voice like a gentle and friendly caress. Then after a minute or so, things are taken up a few notches, James delivering the lyrics with a great deal of joy. The bass is what keeps this lively version moving, and this track also features a really nice lead on guitar. That’s followed by a totally delightful rendition of “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me,” written by Jimmy McHugh and Clarence Gaskill. This one too features a bass line that keeps things moving. I love James Hudson’s vocal performance here, including his choices of placement of some dramatic pauses. And of course I dig that great work on drums. This arrangement is by Joe Hill and James Hudson.

“It Had To Be You” is a song that I still can’t help but associate with Annie Hall, which I believe is where I first heard it. Here James Hudson delivers a kind of soothing rendition, which includes an excellent lead on guitar. The arrangement is by Nick Fitch and James Hudson. By the way, I’ve learned that the line “With all your faults, I love you still” isn’t always appreciated by that special someone as much as you’d think it would be. “It Had To Be You” is followed by “My Romance,” which features a wonderful lead on piano. And Nick Fitch responds to the line “no soft guitars” with a nice little touch on guitar. As the song is reaching its conclusion there is another good lead on piano. Then Nick Fitch begins “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” on guitar, and at first it is the guitar that supports James Hudson’s gentle vocal delivery, capturing perfectly the romantic vibe of this composition by Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin. Yes, romance is alive and well in this rendition.

James Hudson’s voice is supported by piano at the beginning of “Almost Like Being In Love.” This version eases in with some lines from later in the song. Then after that introduction, the song takes on more energy, as the joy seems ready to burst from James Hudson, and you get the sense that he breaks not only into song, but a dance. May everyone get a chance to feel that way. Right? We need both love and music to carry us through these crazy times. This track features a wonderful lead on piano. It was arranged by Joe Hill and James Hudson. That’s followed by another romantic and cheerful number, “The More I See You,” written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.  The more I see you, the more I want you/Somehow this feeling just grows and grows/With every sigh I become more mad about you/More lost without you/And so it goes.” Oh yes, James Hudson is so smooth here. I love the way he sings “And so it goes” the first time around.

I have said it on multiple occasions, but it continues to be true: you can never go wrong with Gershwin. One of my personal favorites is “Someone To Watch Over Me,” and here James Hudson gives us an absolutely marvelous rendition. His vocals are supported by guitar for that first section, and then the piano basically announces the main section, an interesting and compelling moment that I love. It is James Hudson’s voice that really determines the direction of this beautiful rendition. The arrangement is by Nick Fitch and James Hudson. The album concludes with its title track, “Tomorrow.” James Hudson delivers a lively, breezy, hopping rendition of the song from Annie. We can all use a song of hope, and here it is. Things are going to get better. And they seem to be, don’t they? People are getting vaccinated, and bands are starting to book concerts and tours again. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow/So you gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow/Come what may.”

CD Track List

  1. Pennies From Heaven
  2. I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me
  3. It Had To Be You
  4. My Romance
  5. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
  6. Almost Like Being In Love
  7. The More I See You
  8. Someone To Watch Over Me
  9. Tomorrow

Tomorrow was released on February 26, 2021.

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