The New York Times
"Tap Served with Brass Punch"
The 69-year-old Maurice Hines, backed by an all-woman band, offered a show at 54 Below that honored his showbiz forebears.
Read the entire review online at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/arts/music/maurice-hines-at-54-below.html?smid=pl-share
In Tune International
Tommy Newsom has arranged 15 songs most fittingly for Mr. Hines. Don't overlook this CD as just another Nat Cole tribute. Maurice passionately sings "Unforgettable" (Gordon). He's at his dreamy best as well on Ray Noble's "The Very Thought Of You" adding to it a light swing. Speaking of swing, wait till you hear a roaring/rocking version of Bobby Troup's "Route 66". Maurice will have you finger snapping throughout. "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" (Turk/Ahlert) has an almost spoken vocal with a great upbeat Howard Alden solo on guitar. "This Can't Be Love" (Rodgers/Hart) rocks the room. Frank Owens piano kicks this swinger to the max. It's obvious listening to Maurice how much devotion he had for Nat Cole.
Some jazz singers are so busy swinging, they often forget about lyrics. They should listen to, and learn from, this album. Sure, Maurice Hines has flaws: His range is limited and his sustained notes tend to wobble, but oh, how he phrases and how he groups lyrics together, often singing some words in italics. And he has a jazz singer's sens of humor. This session is a blast from the get-go.
Take some loose-swinging sidemen and sidewomen from the Apple, give them Tommy Newsom's economical arrangements and then put pianist Frank Owens in charge and you get the joyful results heard here. "Almost Like Being in Love" had to swing because it was given just the right tempo; ditto the shuffle "Route 66," "L-O-V-E" and "This Can't Be Love." "Dream" sounds brand new as a bossa nova; Karolina Strassmayer's flute solo helps considerably. Listen carefully to Owens; he's a track stealer with his interpolations, sneaking in "Love In Bloom" twice on "Little Girl" and quoting "At Sunrise" and "L-O-V-E" in "The Very Thought Of You." Guitarist Howard Alden gets into the act, quoting "Lil' Darlin' " on "Love Is Here To Stay." Alden also adds to the Basie feel in the rhythm section. Happy jazz—it's infectious.
NY Jazz Guide & Directory
Tributes and dedication recordings are not only difficult to execute, but the success rate is marginal. Once in a great while does a session devoted to a master and genius become an audible delight. When choosing material for such a risky undertaking, one must proceed with caution and carefully sift through the discography and the musical lifetime of such an artist. In the case of To Nat "King" Cole With Love, the multi-talented song and dance man Maurice Hines not only does justice to one of this century's most accomplished singers/pianists, but allows the listener to participate in an enjoyable and uplifting journey through the music of Nat King Cole.
Under the lyrical auspices and direction of long time band leader, from the days of The Tonight Show, Tommy Newsome, and a gifted variety of jazz knowledgeable musicians, such as Frank Owens, Wycliffe Gordon, Ralph Lalama, and Sherrie Maricle, this recording not only swings hard, but touches your heart in away that is not only nostalgic in content, but tender in feeling.
Approaching a project of this magnitude takes not only effort, but also a deep breath, and much positive energy. The magnificent choice of tunes is varied, and the assortment of Newsome's arrangements sometimes surprises the traditionalist, but work nonetheless. Timing is everything for Hines throughout this conception. The project is a not only a professional credit to his career, but a sensitive and personal moment of gratitude. This recording is not only filled with fun, but is also truly and simply divine. Capturing the essence of Nat King Cole's music is arduous, but thanking him is not only complimentary but also gracious.
One must be thoroughly secure in his work to succeed in such an application as this. Hines exemplifies the confidence that allows this session to brilliantly shine, thanking Nat for the many years of musical joy he brought us, and the innumerable tunes we continue to sing is a total labor of love.
The multi-faceted career of Maurice Hines commenced at the age of five when he studied tap dancing. Through time, he performed with his brother Gregory and his talented father in a family act known as "Hines, Hines and Dad" The brothers opened for Lionel Hampton, and brothers starred in various Broadway musicals and films such as Cotton Club.
In an empty space of quality vocals, it is welcoming to hear the familiar standards of yesteryear. With the fine accompaniment of Howard Alden, and keyboard extraordinaire Frank Owens, this trip down Memory Lane is a cool drink of water in the burning desert. Hines wonderfully exhibits his personal education in the term vocalese. The charts are simple and elegant as the excursion emerges with the Nat Cole signature, "Unforgettable." Newsome administers a dreamy treatment to this magnificent classic, but keeps in the tradition of the composition. The rhythm section shines here, in this somewhat creative approach to this household chestnut. The band discovers new undercurrents to a melody otherwise so universally familiar. The incorporation of Karolina Strassmayer's flute work allows the tune to possess a rhythmic quality, fine and mellow. Hines invents new parameters and levels of interpretation throughout the melody, and still stays tme to the original content.
The great Harold Arlen collaborated with Yip Harburg and Billy Rose on "It's Only a Paper Moon." Ella Fitzgerald recorded it in 1938, and Nat adopted it in 1945. This jazzy and refreshing rendition features the proficient hands of Frank Owens who obviously recalls Nat's style and exchanges riffs with Maurice repeatedly. I could not refrain from finger popping as Sherrie Maricle kept perfect time in concurrence with bassist Ben Brown. There is a jesting air among the band as Hines commemorates the witty lyrics of "Harburg." Ralph La Lama joins Tanya Darby in this playful exhibition of a sound reminiscent of years gone by.
Infinite vocalists, not only in the jazz genre, but also in the mainstream, have recorded the Ray Noble brilliant diamond, "The Very Thought of You". The immediate expectation of this splendid ballad would be in a slow romantic tempo. The rhythm drastically changes in the translation of this timeless masterpiece. Frank Owens has total control over the melody line, as he demonstrates his stmctural expertise of the twinkling whites. Again, Maurice seems to be enjoying himself on this selection, extending phrases and working successfully through the chord changes.
The Nat King Cole celebration continues with a tune that has Nat's insignia on it. "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" features the masterful bassist Bob Cranshaw, whose long association with Sonny Rollins dictates his notable skill. He is an integral part of this swinging organization. Cranshaw's bass work on this tune is smooth, but venerable in content. Gifted guitarist Howard Alden expounds his versatility and timing as he takes a glimmering solo. After all, walking your baby back home seems almost passť at this time in history...what a shame.
Undertaking a grand venture as To Nat "King" Cole With Love, is somewhat laborious in choosing tunes that are adequately appropriate to honor a master such as Nat. In the Charlie Chaplin composition, "Smile", Maurice is honestly heartfelt in his in rendering, with the assistance of trumpeter Jami Dauber, and the sensitive pontification of Hines. "Little Girl" is another great tune to add to the list. Frank Owens takes over and transforms the tempo into one reflective of the 1930's. Maurice waits for the lead that Owens quickly hands to him, and runs with it. Alden has a nuance of Django which compliments the frolic among the players. Maurice tells a story from beginning to end, as perspicacious Alden approaches the line in an intro from the past. His solos are unquestionably superb.
Throughout this session, there are various alterations in tempo, and some are definitely a surprise. Sherrie Maricle, whose Diva Orchestra is comprised of all women, is brilliant on this recording. Her sense of timing is unprecedented, and her bmshwork is extraordinary. I could not get enough of Frank Owens. He diligently studied Cole's style and changes. This is blatantly evident in his execution of each composition.
The Bobby Troup classic "Route 66" is the quintessential Nat Cole tune. The band takes it to another level, and alters the tempo into a jive swing. Newsome reconstructs the original arrangement, but makes it work. Oh, that Frank Owens is something else! Maurice has a cool, relaxed approach, but a confidence that takes you on that road trip.
The Basie intro on "When I Fall in Love" brings you onto the dance floor for a foxtrot. The trombone of Wycliffe Gordon in incorporated appropriately. Hines articulates, and demonstrates perfect intonation while blending with the orchestra to declare his love. The horn section is on the money, and again Owens ends in a familiar Basie riff. And there is the under recorded "Nevertheless," The arrangement is simple, but the solos are gem inspired. Alden and Strassmayer are featured, with Maricle, and Cranshaw representing the rhythm section with pride. Akien and Maricle are symbiotically attached and rightly so.
At this point, I put on my dancing shoes, and was ready for the next few numbers. The Lerner and Loewe jewel, "Almost Like Being In Love," has stood the test of time in all different settings. The band swings, and Hines is truly enjoying himself. Wycliffe Gordon and trumpeter in residence, Jami Dauber makes a joyful noise, along with the rich baritone of Lisa Parrott. The Perdido interlude and a killing horn section, is an uplifting big band sound of the past.
A dedication to the genius of Nat King Cole could not be complete with out a song that belonged only to Nat. Lerner and Loewe wrote, "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" for My Fair Lady. Tommy Newsome has this one in his pocket. He does a magnificent arrangement for this breathtaking love song. Hines is tender and sincere as Owens stretches out to bring tears to your eyes, with lush chord changes, and a solo worth the price of admission. One can feel the sentiment behind the melody, with some of the most beautifiul, evocative lyrics ever written. Nat recorded a compilation of tunes entitled "Songs From Stage and Screen". This particular song is part of that memorable album on Capitol.
"This Can't Be Love", and "Our Love Is Here To Stay" are two gems, one by Rodgers and Hart, and the other by the Gershwins. The tempo really soars on the first. The band swings hard, and Hines is eloquent in his articulation of the lyrics. With the accompaniment of Bob Cranshaw, the beat remains at a steady pace. On the other hand, "Our Love Is Here to Stay" is painted here on a colorful pastel palette. Again, Alden is demonstrative in an easy, slow drag with the addition of Neil Hefti's "Little Darlin" in the middle. It doesn't get better than that.
Nat's version of the Johnny Mercer diamond, "Dream" was always soft and cloud-like. Newsome decides to change the feeling, and takes you to Brazil, circa 1960. The bossa beat gives new meaning to this standard. The Jobim solo by Owens is just sublime, and Strassmayer's flute takes you straight to Rio. Alden plays as Charlie Byrd did in that period of the bossa nova movement.
The piece de resistance is "L-O-V-E", which Nat also possessed. The band really stretches out and swings to the end. Hines sends his love to conclude the session. Wycliffe shows his stuff as Maurice attests that love was made for you and me. Hines has total comprehension of the great songwriters of our time. This delightful celebration of Nat King Cole's music is not only timely, but a breath of fresh air. I was only disappointed, when I put my dancing shoes away for the night. Bravo, Maurice.