ShareThis Page

'Gentlemen Sing' leans too heavily on jazz standards

| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

Sometimes jazz has trouble being America's classical music.

Just as some music ensembles get so tied down to performing the great classics of centuries ago, many jazz performances fall into the rut of relying on time-tested standards.

Such was the flaw of “The Gentlemen Sing” concert Feb. 28 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side. The show was put together by Marty Ashby, executive producer of MCG Jazz, as a way of showing the future of male jazz singing by teaming up promising newbie Milton Suggs from New York City with 86-year-old veteran Ernie Andrews and Allen Harris, 57, in the midst of a busy career.

The concert accomplished the goal of showing off all the voices, but it was so filled with standards it took on the nature of a classical outing. New looks at the songs were limited, and attention to the growth and development of music was non-existent.

All three singers performed well, but all performed the same type of music. Whether it was Harris singing “I Remember You,” Suggs doing “Body and Soul” or Andrews offering “Our Love is Here to Stay,” the concert sounded like it was stuck on the same pages of the Great American Songbook.

Of course, it was better than Andrews trying to make James Taylor's “Fire and Rain” into a bright, swing number.

While ignoring the growth and change of music is frustrating, treating it badly is even more offensive.

There were strong parts of the show. Harris played guitar on “I Can't Live My Life Without You,” giving it some life with his electric licks. Suggs showed tasteful cleverness in his lyrics to the Benny Golson classic, “Along Came Betty.”

But the show seemed to ignore that worthwhile music might have been written after 1960 — with the dreadful exception of Andrews' “Fire and Rain.”

There is a reason why a growing cast of jazz singers are doing songs by The Beatles or Joni Mitchell. They are good songs. It is the same reason why Miles Davis didn't insist on playing “Seven Steps to Heaven” forever and instead found merit in “Human Nature” and “Time After Time.”

Suggs is a promising singer with a great near-bass voice. His versions of “Honeysuckle Rose” and the other two numbers were fresh and lively.

His work would indicate jazz singing is in good hands.

But audiences down the road are going to be looking for songs they know, rather than ones they've read about.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.