Bozz Scaggs “Speak Low”

14 Nov

In 2003, Boz Scaggs released his last studio album “But Beautiful”, a first volume of jazz standards. Sure it may seem cliché, as all the greats and not so greats seem to have turned to the Great American Songbook, but there’s a reason why “Speak Low” was five years in the making. Scaggs’ follow up album is a thoughtful approach to 12 carefully selected classics performed with delicate sophistication. You’ll hear the works of Mercer, Ellington, and Hart & Rodgers among other notable composers.

There’s a sense of deference in the arrangements and Scaggs’ silky smooth performance, refreshing rather than reinventing the classics which will surely delight jazz aficionados. Pianist and arranger, Gil Goldstein, has done a brilliant job bringing out the essence of each song through simple, yet not exactly conventional instrumentation. For instance, “Invitation” begins with a syncopated tabla beat providing a foundation for the song’s ethereal sonic atmosphere, while the title track features an up-tempo marimba solo. For the most part however, “Speak Low” meanders through subdued tempos in the realm of smooth jazz, begging for mood-lighting and fine wine.

The minimalistic arrangements provide a sense of space that let each song unfold in their own time and cater to Scaggs’ laid back delivery full of artistic subtleties and nuances that make this album a pleasure with every repeat listen. The interplay between instruments and Scaggs, while anything but electric, is still a musical delight with its conversational tone that develops in such songs as “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me” and “Save Your Love For Me”. Scaggs flirts with bossa in “Dindi”, his voice lending itself perfectly to the style while the accordion adds a little extra flavor.

All in all “Speak Low” let’s the music speak for itself. Scaggs performs with decided reverence, never overpowering, never a hint of strain. While the performance could have been pushed a little further, the immediacy and intimacy of this album is a something to be treasured.

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