"Standards" are the life blood of jazz vocalists. The great catalog of songs that are recognized after one stanza gives jazz stylists a seemingly bottomless vat of material to draw from and make their own.
And it’s the "make their own" that’s a tricky part - I mean just how many different ways can one sing "Autumn Leaves" and remain unique. The stylist needs to take a song that we all make their own without warping it into an unrecognizable ego-trip.
Dexter Porter’s debut album "Crazy She Calls Me" contains ten tracks from the great American songbook. Dexter manages to put his unique styling to each number opening with Roger & Hart’s "Have You Met Miss Jones," closing with Fred Rogers' "Won’t You Be My Neighbor" with a trip along "Route 66" and a meal of "Shoofly Pie" in between. I never thought I’d hear Mr. Rogers on a jazz album - that guy in the cardigan sure could swing.
When Dexter Porter sings, the lyrics are featured center stage, and while he does put his stamp on each of the efforts, he has such an apparent respect for the original material that he allows the song to remain the focus of his performance.
He created the CD with three excellent trios (all featuring piano, bass, and drums) which might have made for an uneven effort, but in this CD, it allowed him to demonstrate his musical dexterity (sorry for the pun) from a swinging version of Bobby Troup’s "Route 66" to a bossa nova-like version of Gershwin’s "Someone to Watch Over Me." In the latter effort he sings the verse before effortlessly segueing into his Latin-rhythm interpretation of the classic song.
Dexter possesses an extremely mellow (I mean that in the best sense of the word) baritone voice that just seems to wrap itself around any tune he’s performing.
According to his biography, friends had urged Dexter to change his focus from musical theatre and television in New York to a career as a jazz vocalist. With a first name like Dexter how did Dexter think he belonged anywhere but a jazz club in New York?
We have to thank his persuasive friends for their urgings. It looks like he made the right decision. This premier effort bodes well for his future. Broadway’s loss is our gain.