Speak Low

Boz Scaggs

Decca records, 2008


REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


The temptation to sigh heavily and bemoan another great rocker succumbing to the lure of “the standards” fades instantly with the first note Boz Scaggs sings on his new disc, Speak Low. After all, this is nothing Scaggs hasn’t done before (But Beautiful in 2003), and he actually has an affinity for this music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But it’s more than that. It’s song choice, interpretation, phrasing, musicality, life experience. Boz can pull this off because it’s part of who he is, not merely a marketing ploy to pump some life into a sagging career (see Rod Stewart).

This is more than a smooth jazz quartet with a vocalist, though that’s the feel of this intimate disc. Disc opener “Invitation,” written by Bronislaw Kaper and Paul Francis Webster, is a stunning tune that I’m pleased to have found. With Gil Goldstein’s piano and Mike Mainieri’s vibes and, I believe, a bass clarinet providing the bed for Scaggs to lay his tender yet worldly vocals on -- well, it’s fine, fine, fine.

One of the strengths of this disc is the deft mixing of what seem like brilliant finds (such as “Invitation”) with new readings of better known fare such as Rodgers and Hart’s “She Was Too Good For Me,” Ogden Nash and Kurt Weill’s title track, and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark.” 

Speak Low is not perfect. There’s the plodding “I’ll Remember April” and “Dindi,” a song I’ve never been able to feel, regardless of who’s performing it. But this disc is one you can easily enjoy on several levels. It is perfect to have to set the mood for an intimate dinner party or to experience the purity of well-made and well-engineered music through a set of high-end headphones.

Scaggs’ honeyed voice still drips into the musical crevices of songs and fills those empty spaces flawlessly. He knows the importance of breathing room and he knows that the voice becomes so much more when it isn’t everything.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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