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Philip Manuel
Heart to Heart,  Turnipseed CD TMCD.10 (60:59), 1995

 Soulful jazz singing in an interesting trio

This live recording captures Philip Manuel’s soulful jazz baritone in a fine collection of standards and originals. Manuel is a real jazz singer, with a flexible sense of phrasing and a jazzer’s freedom with the melody. With only sax (mostly tenor, some alto) and bass backing him, he works as a fully contributing member of the trio, adding effective vocal and percussive accents when he is not singing.

There are several good old standards on the disk, as well as three originals by Manual and Dagradi and one song ("Fragile") by Sting. Most of the tunes are taken at a moderate to brisk tempo. The street walker in "Love for Sale" is certainly eager to get back to work. (I wonder if this Cole Porter tune is mis-credited in the liner notes to "Indian Love Call" composer Rudolf Friml just so his sometime lyricist Brian Hooker(!) can get co-credit.) "Paper Moon" is full of bounce and features fine scatting by Manuel. Eden Ahbez’s one big hit "Nature Boy" is sung faster than Nat did it, which cuts the song’s sappy sentimentality nicely. Only the Manuel/Dagradi original "Heart to Heart" and Matt Dennis’ wonderful "Angel Eyes" slow down to show that Manuel can croon almost as well as he can bop.

Manuel digs into the emotions a bit more than some jazz singers–not for him the ultra cool, I-can’t-be-ruffled attitude. Yes, indeed, he has soul, and I hear Sam Cooke in his voice as much as, say, Nat Cole. For example, on "Fever," instead of Peggy Lee’s classically aloof delivery (sounding like she’s ready to get even with her lover, dammit), Manuel turns up the soul right from the beginning with some elegant cat howl scatting. Dagradi helps out by fluttering like a wounded bird in the background as Manuel pulls off "baby, you make me hard all day long." Yow!

All of this was recorded "direct to CD" (in a manner not described) at a live performance at the Columns Hotel in New Orleans. Whatever the method is, it works. This is a very fine recording, with Manuel’s voice and the instruments sounding full-bodied and the musical nuances well captured. There is also an understated sense of the general acoustic of the room, though fortunately this is not one of those live "audiophile" recordings where the mikes are so far back you hear more crowd noise and echo than music. ("Listen–right here–you can hear someone ask for a margarita straight up!") Turnipseed has to be counted among that small handful of labels (including AudioQuest, Chesky, Mapleshade and CIMP) that are releasing good new popular music that also happens to be very well-recorded.

This is a fine record than will definitely appeal to fans of jazz singers like Mark Murphy and Kevin Mahogany. Lovers of smooth soul crooning will probably also find something to appreciate here. And, what the heck, if you like the alt-rock group Morphine, well, here’s another vocals-sax-bass trio for you!– Glenn Brooks


Philip Manuel, vocals; Tony Dagradi, saxophones; James Singleton, bass.


Produced and recorded by Don Turnipseed.

song titles

Love for Sale • Fragile • Heart to Heart • It’s Only a Paper Moon • Fever • Oneness • Nature Boy • Doctor Moon • Angel Eyes • Love Is Here to Stay

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.