It would seem that jazz instrumentalists are far more expected to come up with original material than their vocal counterparts. Many new vocal albums will come out this year with the expected collection of well known standards, which isn’t such a bad thing, but it would be nice to hear more original tunes now and again instead of an umpteenth version of “You’ve Changed”, which is why “Unlikely Valentine”, the new CD by Ron Boustead, is such a treat. Of the first five songs on here, four are originals, and on the remaining cuts Boustead presents re-workings of known tunes, plus one more original.
One of the first things you will notice about Boustead is his sharp rapid fire diction. Boustead has a voice that would work great in voice-overs, as a radio DJ, or maybe even as a middle-aged rapper. When Ron wants to, he makes words fly by at a rapid rate like a be-bop saxophonist, but every word is always crystal clear. The next thing you’ll pick up from his originals is that this guy is very witty, with some occasional laugh out loud lyrics, particularly on the satirical “I Won’t Scat”, on which Boustead pokes fun at more indulgent jazz singers. Boustead is proud to point out that the main influence on his vocal style is Mark Murphy, but in his clever lyrics you will hear traces of Mose Allison and Bob Dorough. It comes as no big surprise that Dorough’s, “Love Comes on Stealthy Fingers” closes out this album.
In addition to being a vocalist, Ron is also a sound engineer, which might explain why this CD sounds so crisp, clean and well balanced. Boustead is backed on here by a soulful rhythm section that includes a Hammond B3, plus three horn players which gives the songs a swinging big band flavor. Many singers who are more well known than Boustead will release albums this year, but “Unlikely Valentine” is already one of my top picks for male vocal performance in 2017. Hopefully Ron will be releasing more albums in the future, he is a singer who deserves much wider recognition.