Modern Crooners: 7 Top Standards Singers of 2017

Last year, I put together a list of often-overlooked singers of American standards. It was such a joy to find new interpretations, and make a list. Below, are seven more that I am enjoying. They are in no particular order.

Click Here for last year’s list, which includes Zooey Deschanel, Caleb Collins, Madeline Peyroux, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Wade Tower, Aaron Minick, Holland Mariah Grossman, Landau Eugene Murphy, Matt Dusk and Marc Broussard. I reserve the right to do a second 2017 list, if I am so moved.

1. Frances Madden:

What’s not to love about Australian Frances Madden? Terribly attractive, cute, but not cutesy, and completely solid. The song “Such a Beautiful Thing” is the sort of song this world needs. What makes her stand out is that she writes her own songs, and also does standards, making her a deeply dimensional artist. Joyful. This world does not need more angst. It needs a few more like Frances channeling their talent.

2. Matt Forbes

This Canadian does all the typical Sinatra standards, but I found him most interesting in his version of Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All the Luck.” Frankly, there is always a danger in doing things Sinatra did with any sort of cool swagger. You risk having a tribute band approach. This reverses things, as Stewart gained fame from doing standards, perhaps not realizing that his songs now are standards. I really love the way he does it straight, like he would have sung it on the Merv Griffin Show. On the verge of cheese but never all the way in. The bridge solo reminds me of a friendly TV sitcom sound, in a good way. This approach would not work with “Do You Think I’m Sexy.” Arrangement by the brilliant Callum Au is joyful.

3. Alex Platt & Dheepa Chari

This temporary duo of Los Angeles musician Platt and vocalist Dheepa Chari recorded this restrained version of Old Devil Moon, co-produced with Rob Kohler. Platt describes himself as a drummer, educator and producer. Chari is of Hindustani heritage, by way of Texas, Los Angeles and New York City. We like that she sees herself as straightforward. We need more of that sensible stuff in music. What it is. What it is.

4. Nina Repeta

North Carolina actress Nina Repeta, best known for Dawson’s Creek, is also a nifty song stylist. “Fly Me to the Moon” is almost always a good song, and doing it in a minimal way, in the hands of a vocalist who hits the notes, and every syllable, is satisfying. Michel Legrand’s “Watch What Happens” is also refreshing, and not academic.

5. Kristin Slipp and Dov Manski

Slipp has a unique voice that verges on being a bit too odd for standards, but hits notes you would not expect. Manski does a mean Wurlitzer. When not doing standards, Slipp is an indie songwriter. You could sit down for a very happy evening listening to those two, but always be a bit on edge, in a not too dangerous way. Kristin’s voice may not be for all, but it is completely relaxing.

6. Lisa Tuyula

German singer and artist Lisa Tuyula sings where spirituals and standards connect. Yet I just can’t figure out how well she captures “My Funny Valentine” in a very plain, but compelling way. Below, Tuyula with Christopher Reinhold on the piano in a Soundcloud sample.

7. Caesar

Caesar’s rendition of “The Very Thought of You” is lush sounding, and rich.  He does an “Autumn Leaves” in part Japanese and English. He grew up in Chicago, and has performed with many greats, often compared to Nat King Cole.

That’s it for now. If you know of others who should be on this list, please leave a comment below.

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