Curtis Stigers rose to fame in 1991 with his huge huts I Wonder Why and You’re All That Matters to me, taken from his debut self-titled album. After recording and release three pop/soul albums, Curtis seemingly reinvented himself on 2001’s Baby Plays Around, which saw him venture into jazz. Actually, it wasn’t so much a reinvention as a return to his roots as Curtis had been playing and singing jazz after moving to New York City. With a career that has so far spanned three decades and is entering its fourth, Curtis has released his brand-new studio album Gentleman today.
For Gentleman, Curtis has created a mix of originals and covers. The album opens with Lately I’ve Let Things Slide, a cover of Nick Lowe’s song which laments waking up after an event, and booze, filled evening. The loose instrumentation captures the lazy, hazy feel of the lyrics and it eases you gently into the record. It also feels oddly relevant to the situation we all find ourselves in now, with many people across the world confined to the monotony of couch surfing and over-indulging.
The tempo picks up on the Turner Layton and Henry Creamer penned After You’ve Gone. Curtis’ vocal is superb on this track, especially when he allows his swoonsome vibrato to ring out at the end of words. This is followed by the first of the original tracks, A Lifetime Together, which Curtis penned with David Poe. The tinkling piano melody gives way to a hushed vocal and sees Curtis reflecting on a relationship that has weathered many a storm and enjoyed plenty of happy moments. Curtis recently spoke to me about how his daughter growing into an adult and fleeing the nest was part of the inspiration for this record so I’d be surprised if this song wasn’t born from that.
One of the highlights is the moody title track Gentleman, which opens with all the bombast and grandeur of a Rat Pack classic. Written in the post #MeToo era, the song sees Curtis conveying his idea of what a gentleman in the modern day is. The arrangement on the track is so classy and gorgeous. The lyrics also highlight something that men across the world should be taking to heart, as they celebrate respect, dignity and decorum.
Elsewhere on the record the understated Remember, written by David Poe, strips away all the production and allows Curtis to shine accompanied by piano, while a cover of John Fullbright’s She Knows is a beautiful love ballad that is sure to be the soundtrack to a few weddings in the future. Shame on the Rain, written by Tom T. Hall, is a timeless ballad about a breakup and closing track Learning to Let You Go, another original by Curtis, Larry Goldings and David Poe, ends the record on a hopeful note.
Gentleman is a classy album from start to finish. Every song just oozes sophistication and the loose arrangements across the record work in its favour. While we’re all stuck in lockdown, it’s the perfect soundtrack to give us a little escapism. Put it on, close your eyes and imagine you’re in a New York jazz club – trust me, it’ll make you feel a whole lot better for 40 minutes.
Track list: 1. Lately I’ve Let Things Slide 2. After You’ve Gone 3. A Lifetime Together 4. Gentleman 5. As Usual 6. Remember 7. She Knows 8. Here We Go Again 9. Shame on the Rain 10. Under the Snow 11. Learning to Let You Go Record label: Emarcy Release date: 1st May 2020 Buy Gentleman