Finding there is none like Lou Rawls
When Lou Rawls launched the first of four twice-a-night performances at Scullers last night, the question was how much his jazz chops would be on display, what with this 81st album of his, "Rawls Sings Sinatra," having come out in September. Appearances in jazz clubs became a rarity for Rawls when he became famous in the '60s and '70s for crossover R&B and soul hits like "Tobacco Road" and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine."
The answer was plenty -- three songs' worth -- while still giving the audience a predominance of his chestnuts in other genres to recognize and groove to.
He began by whipping through five old soul and R&B hits -- "Groovy People," "Tobacco Road," "A Natural Man," and "Lady Love" among them, with guitarist David T. Walker taking the first of four extraordinarily bluesy solos on "Tobacco Road."
"Lady Love" segued into "The Lady Is a Tramp," the first of the set's three Sinatra covers, and on it the singer's backing quintet played like a prison gang just broken loose. Pianist Jeff Colella took a rollicking solo, and Rawls himself did some enjoyable scatting toward the tune's end.
"Nice 'N' Easy" came along two songs later and featured a nice vibes solo by Billy Hulting (drummer Kenny Elliott and bass guitarist Curtis Robertson Jr. rounded out the quintet, but neither soloed). Then it was back to four or five more nonjazz numbers, depending how you're counting, since among them was a medley of "Room With a View" and the old Trini Lopez hit "Kansas City." (The Chicago-raised Rawls must have been saving his medley of "My Kind of Town" and "Chicago," from the Sinatra CD, for a later set.)
"That's Life" wrapped up the Sinatra portion of the opening set and featured another fierce solo by Walker before building to a climax at which many in the crowd just couldn't help themselves but sing along with Rawls when he came to the words, "That's Life."
"See You When I Git There" followed, and then Rawls wrapped up the set with what many in the crowd had been waiting for: "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." All told, Rawls rattled off an hourlong set of 16 tunes, interspersed with a little of the rapping he made famous back before the term was swiped by guys like Eminem. He also led the audience in clapping at a few points and coaxed them into singing along for a segment of "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine."
At: Scullers Jazz Club, first set, last night (repeats tonight, Saturday)
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