Before receiving this SACD, I confess I had never heard of Luqman Hamza, (nee Billy Cummings), and it was my loss. Those folks at Groove Note have a knack for bringing us interesting singers, from locations ranging from Singapore to, in this case, Kansas City. Now I have another reason for visiting Kansas City besides Jay McShann and Arthur Bryant's barbecue.
The title of this album is apropos; Hamza has a voice of truly astonishing warmth and expressiveness. There is a certain androgynous quality in his sound. When I first put on this disc I wasn't sure for a moment if I was hearing a man or a woman -- mind you, a woman with a voice like, say, Sarah Vaughn! (Actually, on some phrases Hamza does remind me a bit of the divine Sarah. And that's a compliment.)
Hamza also plays an eloquent, stylish piano. And as usual, producer Joe Harley has backed his headliner with a fine group of musicians. The program is a meaty selection of romantic standards: "My One and Only Love," "Laura," "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" -- you get the drift. I especially like "Weaver of Dreams." My only complaint is that, beautiful as Hamza's voice is, over the course of the whole album all of that gorgeous tone can start to sound monotonous. Hamza doesn't vary his approach much from song to song, and sometimes I would happily trade some of that pure vocalism for a bit more shading, more subtlety. For me, I think the answer to the problem is to play just three or four songs at a time. That way I don't get impatient, as I am more likely to do listening from start to finish.
NOTE: I received the 180-gram LP, with a bonus 45, too late for critical evaluation this time around, but I will comment on it later.