New Standards
991-92, 53:08

Robert Hicks is a charmer. He has joie de vivre that sounds genuine--though it's hard to find in these psychically turbulent times--when supported by solid musicianship. He makes you think of Harry Connick Jr. because he is a young singer/pianist/arranger with a subtle, '90s slant on nostalgia. His tenor voice is lighter and prettier than Connick's, but Hicks can still achieve serious affects: "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" is a gentle, adult love song, and the escapist "Moonlight In Vermont" manages to be both ethereal and convincing.

The program may be quaint, but Hicks' liberated spirit applies many twists and tangents. Cole Porter's "I Get A Kick Out Of You" evolves into an exercise in tension and release. Jerome Kern's "The Song Is You" soars and bounces on the elastic snap of Chuck Flores' brushes and Morty Corb's bass (not to mention Hicks' ecstatic shoobee-doobees).

There are firm jazz foundations beneath all this fun. Hicks prods himself with his own precise piano fills. The horn soloists--trumpeter Graham Young, reed player Doug Webb, trombonist George Bohanon--are interesting individualists who are seamlessly meshed into Hicks' whimsical world.

If you are not too jaded for a voice with a smile in it, if you understand how urbanity and sentimentality can sometimes fruitfully coexist, if you are reassured by the sure signs of craftsmanship, then Robert Hicks will work for you too.

-Thomas Conrad