Boston native, New England perennial jazz award winner and vocalist, Paul Broadnax spent time in the service before working as an arranger for the Sabby Lewis Band. Later, he worked with bands led by Tom Kennedy and Buster Daniels. In the 1970s, he worked in the Paul Champ Three before forming a trio with bassist Dave Trefethen and drummer Les Harris, Jr. Broadnax currently works in trio with Dave, now on guitar, and Peter Kontrimas on bass. Among the artists Broadnax has worked with include Cab Calloway, Alan Dawson, Lionel Hampton, Milt Hinton, Clark Terry, Joe Williams and Jimmy Witherspoon, to list only a few.
Here’s to Joe was released in 1996 and finds the vocalist laying down lush and smooth vocals that reminds one most of Lou Rawls. Both vocalists have a pure tone that is not airy in the low register or lacking control when singing softly. Other similarities include a beautifully refined sense of phrase and the ability to sustain notes with not just perfect intonation, but also for incredibly long moments creating sublime bliss.
Broadnax comes closest to channeling the real hero of this recording, the late and wonderful vocalist Joe Williams, when singing very low. During those moments, the soft growl and grumble of his voice comes the closest anyone as ever come in rekindling those incredible moments only Williams, or so we thought, could create. While all of the songs on this disc come from the Joe Williams songbook, Broadnax gets closest to Williams on the Burk/Van Heusen standard “Imagination.” Accompanied by only the standard piano trio, Broadnax sounds absolutely his most tenderly soulful. One other incredible moment of Williams channeling occurs on “The Comeback.” For those who long for the Williams of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis recording days, Broadnax nails it on this track.
While he is accompanied by strings and a few woodwinds at times, Broadnax sounds best on the numbers with just the trio. Pianist Donn Trenner, who plays with a minimalist vibe, gives Broadnax tons of room for that incredibly lush voice. This works with strings best on “I Should Have Kissed Her More.” When Herb Pomeroy’s velvety smooth flugelhorn comes in, you can’t help but be reminded of Don Potter’s incredible recording of “Paris Without You” with LaBarbara’s similarly smooth flugel statement. This is a well conceived and excellent album highly recommended to anyone who misses Williams or Rawls.