CURTIS STIGERS is at the forefront of a new generation of jazz singers.
With one of the most distinctive voices in music, the singer/saxophonist/songwriter pushes the boundaries of conventional jazz performers and expands the jazz repertory creating modern jazz standards. Stigers's latest release, I Think It's Going to Rain Today, is a new collection of songs by some of the greatest and most influential songwriters of our time. Putting his unique mark on tunes by Sting, Randy Newman, Mose Allison, Willie Nelson and Tom Waits, as well as two new Stigers originals, Curtis continues to blaze a path as one of his generation's finest and most original interpreters of modern songs.
"This is my niche, my specialty," says Stigers. "I have a great love and an eclectic knowledge of a wide array of songwriters and musical genres, and I know how to bring them all together into one cohesive sound. I want to follow in the footsteps of my heroes. This is what Ella and Billie Holiday did. This is what Sinatra and Nat Cole did. This is even what Miles and Coltrane and nearly all of the great jazz artists have done. They've taken the popular songs of their generation and created something new from them. I know a lot about Rock music and Alt Country and Urban Blues and Folk music and Punk Rock. So I use that knowledge. And that's what I'm steadily becoming known for."
Throughout his career, Stigers has been celebrated for a surprisingly wide variety of impressive accomplishments - from his early pop chart success with several self-penned, top-ten singles and hit albums and an appearance on the soundtrack for "The Bodyguard" (one of the biggest selling albums of all time), to Downbeat Magazine naming him as one of the jazz genre's "Rising Male Stars" and the London Times selecting his last jazz recording, You Inspire Me, as the number one album of 2003. He's toured the world in concert with such renowned pop artists as Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Prince, while also sharing the bill with such jazz greats as Nancy Wilson, Randy Brecker, and Toots Thielmans. Stigers has performed his pop hits the on "The Tonight Show" and "The Late Show with David Letterman," and has been called "one of the best male jazz singers of his generation" by JazzTimes. His refusal to stand still, and his consistent desire to grow and evolve musically, has earned him admiration and recognition - and kept critics guessing.
"What I'm after is a complex and ever-changing thing, which makes it difficult to define who I am. I sing beautiful love songs, but I'm not really a crooner. I write, but I'm not just a singer-songwriter. I'm certainly a jazz singer but so much more, too. I grew up on Stevie Wonder and Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell and Coleman Hawkins, B.B. King and Elton John, Joe Williams and The Clash, Elvis Costello and Sonny Rollins, Tom Waits and Steely Dan, Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles, and on and on. That's who I am and there's nobody else like me. That's how I want my music to sound. Like me."
"The new album is like me: it comes from a lot of different places. Sting wrote 'I Can't Stand Losing You' for the first album by The Police. I've loved that song since I was teenager but I only recently started hearing how I might make it swing. It's a dark song...it's actually a suicide threat...but somehow it's got a great sense of humor." Stigers continues, "Mose Allison wrote 'Everybody Cryin' Mercy' during the Vietnam war, but I'm amazed at how relevant it is today. It's an indictment of U.S. foreign policy and of the hypocrisy that we've all learned to just accept as the status quo. These are dark times and this song mirrors that. With the mess we're in right now, I simply had to record this song."
Taking another direction in his musical repertoire, Curtis explains why he recording "Crazy:" "I grew up idolizing Willie Nelson. He's an American original. I pored over his work looking for the perfect song for this album, and I kept coming back to this song. It's probably sacrilegious to record a tune that Patsy Cline put such an iconic stamp on, but I think the band bought me some redemption with their twisted take on it. They really made it sound like the inside of somebody's twisted, obsessed mind!"
Stigers found "In Between Love" on an album called "Tom Waits-The Early Years, Volume 2." He says, "I've been a fan of Waits since I was a kid but I'd never heard this song until about two weeks before the recording session. It's a beautiful thing. For a fearless uncompromising artist, Tom sure is a romantic."
Other well-known gems given a new, unique twist by Stigers on I Think It's Going to Rain Today include the now-funky "My Babe" by the legendary bluesman Willie Dixon. The track features great performances by drummer Matt Wilson, bassist Ben Allison, and guitarist Pete McCann, as well as some groovy tenor sax from Stigers. There's also a swinging take on Elvis Presley's first big hit, the Arthur Crudup-penned classic, "That's Alright Mama," on which bassist Phil Palmobi makes a swinging appearance. The title track, Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today," is a breathtakingly emotional collaboration between Stigers, Goldings and trumpeter John Sneider, featuring a sublime piano/trumpet interlude with a dose of counterpoint that would make Bach blush.
The album is rounded out by two imaginative, and unexpected, choices of standards - "Side By Side," the depression-era lilt by Harry Woods, which Stigers admits is very dear and bittersweet to him because his family used to sing it on automobile trips when he was a child (before and after his parent divorced); and the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh classic, "It Amazes Me," the arrangement and inspiration for which he admits he and Larry Goldings owe to Blossom Dearie and her version from the late '50s.
What distinguishes Stigers from many jazz singers today is his ability to craft and create beautiful music of his own. For I Think It's Going to Rain Today, he wrote two original tracks with Larry Goldings, the album's keyboardist and arranger, as well as Stigers's co-producer. "Our writing style is simple - Larry sends me a CD with some musical ideas, and I get to work writing lyrics for the ones I like. It's been a nice collaboration over the past seven or eight years." "Columbus Avenue" is a particularly special song for Stigers: "I met and fell in love with my wife in New York City, where we both lived for many years. She was dancing in a Broadway show at Lincoln Centre at the time, and we met at the fountain in front of the theatre for our first date. We walked up Columbus Avenue together, and by 79th Street I was in love. I never looked back. Coincidentally, later that night, we ended up at a jazz club uptown called Augie's, and who was playing? None other than the Larry Goldings Trio. Romance and symmetry!"
"Lullaby On The Hudson" is another song written from the heart, a love song for Stigers' daughter, Ruby. "When she was born we lived in a house overlooking the Hudson River, just north of New York. On Ruby's first night at home, after she was born, I stayed up all night with her in the nursery so my wife could rest. Ruby and I spent the night dozing and getting to know each other between bottle feedings, as the Hudson River iced over outside in the deepfreeze of February. It was the greatest night of my life."
All in all, I Think It's Going to Rain Today, is another daring and emotionally-driven step forward for an artist who, throughout his career, has consistently refused to look back.