Personnel: Curtis Stigers (tenor saxophone); Curtis Stigers (vocals); Larry Goldings (accordion, piano, celesta, Wurlitzer piano, Hammond b-3 organ, Wurlitzer organ); Phil Palombi, Ben Allison (bass instrument); Pete McCann (guitar); John Sneider (trumpet); Matthew Fries (piano); Matt Wilson , Keith Hall (drums).
Audio Mixers: Josiah Gluck; Seth Presant.
Recording information: Acoustic Recording, Brooklyn, NY (06/10/2004-10/07/2004); Sound On Sound Recording, New York, NY (06/10/2004-10/07/2004).
Photographer: Randee Saint Nicholas.
Arranger: Larry Goldings.
Since signing to Concord and releasing Baby Plays Around, an album of jazz standards, in 2001, Curtis Stigers has really found his footing, and with I Think It's Going to Rain Today, he continues to recast pop and rock ballads in easy, elegant jazz settings, an approach that allows his expressive, slightly raspy voice to work its wonders. It is an encouraging synthesis, and much like Cassandra Wilson, Stigers has an unerring eye for pop material that gains depth and emotional range when transferred to the jazz arena. Here he hits right out of the box with a wonderful restructuring of Willie Dixon's "My Babe," resurrects Mose Allison's Vietnam-era "Everybody Cryin' Mercy," and delivers an urbane reading of an early Tom Waits' song, "In Between Love" that reveals the impossible romantic that lurks under Waits' hipster growl. Stigers has also developed into an impressive writer, as well, and the two originals here, "Lullaby on the Hudson" and "Columbus Avenue," are both well configured, literate vignettes that more than hold their own along side such gems as Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," a classic ballad of conflicted emotions edging gracefully into ennui. This is an album of jazz-pop in the best sense, meaning it isn't pop done jazzy, but pop actually done as jazz, which is an entirely different horse, even if some radio programmers will fail to grasp it. The only misstep here is the bonus track that closes the album, a less than striking version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (featuring Stigers' ridiculous attempt at a scat vocal) that originally appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Game Six. Baseball songs aside, I Think It's Going to Rain Today is a fine and nuanced album, and Stigers is on to something here. He's an artist worth following closely, particularly if his writing continues to develop. ~ Steve Leggett