Curtis Stigers
For two decades, Curtis Stigers has demonstrated time and again that the lines between jazz, pop, soul, rock, blues and even country are not as clearly defined as they may seem. In a trajectory that began with pop/soul albums in the early ‘90s, the vocalist-saxophonist-songwriter has spent the past several years cementing his reputation as a formidable jazz singer – one who recognizes the value of the story within the song, and the countless ways in which that story can be told.

“One of the great joys of what I do is being able to hear past the common perceptions about songs – based on a well known original recording or a classic arrangement – and get right to the issue of whether it’s a great song or not,” Stigers explains. “In the end, it’s a matter of answering some simple questions. Is it honest? Is it real? Is it emotional? If all those basic elements are there, it’s amazing how easily some very disparate songs can fit together.”

The answers to these simple questions are clearly in the affirmative on Lost in Dreams, Stigers’ new CD on Concord Records set for release on September 29, 2009. Mixing his own material with a few well known standards – and then tossing in curve balls from sources as diverse as Rodgers and Hart, Annie Lennox and Roger Waters – Stigers creates a surprising whole that is clearly greater the sum of its parts. His brand of jazz includes generous doses of soul, pop, blues and a host of other shades too subtle and elusive to grasp, yet too clever and original to ignore.

“When I started talking about making this record,” says Stigers, “a lot of people were telling me, ‘We love that you do these modern songs as jazz tunes, and we love the way you’re really pushing the envelope in that regard, but it would be really great to hear you sing standards. So I decided I would just do it. And not only would I make an album of standards, but I’d do the most obvious, overdone standards. I’d do the ones I said I have hesitated to record because they’ve been done so many times, or the perfect version has been done already.”

Predictable and safe? Hardly. One look at the songwriting credits on Lost in Dreams tells the tale. Alongside standards like “My Funny Valentine,” “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” are jazz renditions of Annie Lennox’s “Cold,” Ron Sexsmith’s “Reason for Our Love” and John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.”

“As the album of standards was coming together, I started falling back into my old habits,” Stigers laughs. “I love the idea of finding songs by modern composers and modern singer-songwriters – songs that no one ever thought of interpreting in a different way – and then doing just that. Very seldom do people hear a song by John Lennon and say, ‘Hey, that could be a really swinging jazz tune if it were done a different way.’”