In 2004, a group of jazz artists came together and recorded one of the finest tribute albums ever conceived entitled Forever, For Always, For Luther, a release that paid homage to Luther Vandross. When the CD was recorded, Luther was thought to be one of the most dominant and prolific balladeers of his time. Many believed he epitomized the art of a love song and brought an empirical balance to both pop and R&B music. He was one of a long line of male vocalists who pushed the envelope of R&B stylized melodies that includes Jerry Butler, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and a host of others.
Most notably, Luther Vandross stood in a stand-alone category that defied any comparison to his predecessors. Even today his music continues to manifest itself in a variety of formats. When he passed away in 2005 at the age of 54, numerous testaments and tributes were offered to chronicle his rich and heralded legacy. However, none have come close to measuring Luther’s true essence, that is until recently. As one examines the dynamics of what Vandross did with his music, the idea of a tribute is always complicated at best, especially when it comes to replicating someone’s music with jazz. Recently, another group of specialty musicians got together and recorded Forever, For Always, For Luther (Volume II) on the Rendezvous Entertainment record label.
The second installment of Luther Vandross classics that have been offered up by another group of stellar artists highlight the all inclusive talents of Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Everette Harp, Maysa, Kevin Whalum, Gerald Albright, Wayman Tisdale, Patti Austin, Najee, Jonathan Butler and Will Downing. Also in attendance, hosts of sidemen are in residence that reads like a "Who’s Who of Jazz." Over ten illustrious tracks, where one artist leaves off, another picks up the mantle with the same degree of sensitivity as what could be heard from Luther. Everyone involved with the project expressed a sincere ideology regarding the manner of conveyance on each track. Not only was there a high degree of respect for Vandross’ accomplishments, there was a labor of love involved as well. In addition, the involvement of producers Rex Rideout and Bud Haner as well as the keyboard antics of Jeff Lorber illuminated the effort even more.
Although the likes of Luther Vandross may not be experienced again for many years to come, his music has been left for generations to enjoy. Tracks such as "Give Me The Reason," "For You To Love," "Superstar" and "The Night I Fell In Love" are continued reminders of Luther’s melodic intensity. Another track entitled "If This World Were Mine" features the versatility of Gerald Albright on alto saxophone, a song that not only brings back memories of Luther Vandross with Cheryl Lynn, but we are also reminded of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Most notably, the latter two made the song an original hit during the 1960s. The ebb and flow of Albright’s sax possesses a reverence that is true to the song’s aesthetic influence. When listening to Forever, For Always, For Luther (Volume II), there is a chemistry between what Vandross represented and the musicians involved. Even more evident, a strong sense of serendipity ensues beginning with Kirk Whalum’s rendition of "Give Me The Reason."
Although Luther Vandross has made his transition into the next life, his musical legacy continues on with such offerings as Forever, For Always, For Luther (Volume I and Volume II). Most notably as jazz albums, both recordings are true to form, with each containing enhancements that allows for a personal individualized perspective. The second installment of Luther Vandross’ musical treasures are amalgamations of classic R&B and jazz. Collectively, the merging of two varying styles of music has allowed fans of Luther Vandross to revisit his body of work melodically. In the end, I can honestly say that Forever, For Always, For Luther (Volume II) is a great addition to any musical library.