by Constance Tucker
There is nothing more encouraging about the future of the jazz genre than a 19 year old vocalist who shows the promise of carrying on the jazz torch to future generations. Ira Hill is just that vocalist.
Rooted in the jazz vocal tradition, while still keeping an eye of freshness that can appeal to the millennial, Hill connects the generations together in one offering entitled Tomorrow. Hill’s voice has the promise of Jon Hendricks, the panache of Kurt Elling and a fragility of introspection when needed. Hill additionally has the ability to turn on a dime to a powerful style all his own. Produced by the legendary Cheryl Bentyne, and backed by a cavalcade of stars including; John Proulx, Doug Webb, and Alex Acuña and guest vocals spots by Bentyne herself on a few tracks including; “Moody’s Mood for Love,” in a duet setting, and ala Manhattan Transfer style harmonies on “Cloudburst” and “Estate.” An absolute stand out is “Tomorrow’s Another Day,” Hills sounds confident and hints to the maturity we can expect for many years to come, that will only grow sweeter as the years add to his prowess. Hill is in the pocket and swings with sincere swagger. “Billies’s Bounce” has always been a favorite for me, and Hill astutely conveys a solid bebop rhythm, rounding the bottom notes and not cutting them short – and soaring on top with a bluesy horn like quality.
Hill at 19 is way ahead of the game, he already exudes qualities way beyond his years, qualities that one will instantly recognize from the first notes of the opener “Afro Blue,” Hill is one to watch, and the very keen ear of Bentyne obviously recognized this gem in the making. Pick up a copy of this while you still can, I promise you one day you will say; I knew him when and have the CD to prove you have mad jazz skills of being in the know.
Players: Ira Hill (vocals); John Proulx (piano); Kevin Axt (bass); Dave Tull (drums); Craig Fundyga (vibes); Doug Webb (saxophone); Alex Acuña (percussion); Ramon Stagnaro (guitar); Cheryl Bentyne (vocals).
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