Will Downing | Black Pearls

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Will Downing - Black Pearls II

Will Downing | Black Pearls
Shanachie Entertainment
by Peggy Oliver

When the judges on various talent competitions pound out the fact that the vocalist’s song choices are so critical, it can be quite annoying or it can be a vocalist’s secret weapon in gaining success. Then when those careers start taking shape in the right direction, this one piece of advice frankly ends up being a vocalist’s best friend. In his illustrious career that has spanned twenty eight years of recording, Will Downing knew exactly how to woo his audiences, especially in the romance department. His elegant flow of R&B, soul and jazz and his keen sense of covering the classics are what has kept him in the industry game. Besides his obviously stunning vocal range and some savvy songwriting skills, Downing’s intuition in finding outside material that suits his vocal personality has produced an unquestionably long track record. The proof has produced a hit parade including “A Love Supreme” (John Coltrane), “I Try” (Angela Bofill), “The World Is A Ghetto” (WAR) and many other gems that audiences still request during his concerts.

Now a member of the expanding Shanachie Entertainment family, Downing revisits many R&B/soul treasures with Black Pearls, a collection inspired by female hit makers from the past few decades. The most commendable attribute to Black Pearls is that the orchestrations and arrangements rarely venture off from the original versions while Downing clearly wraps his signature voice with spot-on adlibs and flexible vocal range on nearly every piece. And his choices of material usually work in his favor. “Get Here”, the Brenda Russell international smash, adds a sexy oomph with subtle percussion, keys and string section, capped with a gentle acoustic guitar solo in the middle to enhance the mood. “Everlasting Love,” a major hit for Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, finds Downing confidently embracing this mid-tempo groove, backed by elegant backing vocals.

One of Black Pearls‘ absolute highlights, “Meet Me on the Moon” by Phyllis Hyman, paints an intimate love story decorated by articulate lyrics and passion. Downing flexes his arranging skills on another winning piece, “Black Butterfly,” a major hit for Deniece Williams, with ambient keyboards and sweeping string section, anchored by funky undertones. Naturally, Downing reaches back to the Rene’ & Angela songbook for “Your Smile,” where he locks in to his sophistical soul wheelhouse. “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,” Jean Carn’s Philly disco smash, is sprinkled with jazz frosting as Downing’s voice dances with shear glee. Yet even his usually reliable pipes do not gel as much with “Street Life,” despite a respectful rendering of The Crusaders/Randy Crawford jazz funk classic. That aside, those precious Black Pearls as interpreted by Downing’s sturdy voice should evoke very special memories and intriguing song selections from urban music’s golden days. Four and three quarter stars out of five.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene

MORE Music Reviews on T.U.M.S.!:

Ricky Dillard | Choirmaster
Kelly Rowland | Coffee
Boney James | Solid
Keyboardist Jason Miles Big-Ups Black Icons with Black Magic
Sophisticated Soul Singer Will Downing Salutes Baritone Vocal Classics On Romantique Part 2
Second Outing from Corea McBride & Blade Finds Trio as Virtuous and Versatile as Ever
Fantasia | Sketchbook
Raphael Saadiq | Jimmy Lee
Poncho Sanchez | Trane's Delight
Jéssica Pina | Essência
Legends The Mighty O'Jays Bow Out with Soulful Sense of Purpose
Kirk Franklin | LONG LIVE LOVE
Amazing Grace: Aretha Brings The Mountaintop Down to South Central L.A.
New Orleans Offers Up A Sassy Blue Angel
Chaka Khan | Hello Happiness
The Return of The Undisputed Truth is a Sonic Blast From The Past
Shanice: The 'S' is for Steamy on No Sleep new single "He Won't"
London Jones | For You
John Legend | A Legendary Christmas
Will Downing | The Promise
Rhythm Tribe Introduces New Style, Acid Latin, With Return Single "You Can't Take Me Down"
Bob James Drops First Trio CD As A Leader in Over a Decade
Gabrielle | Under My Skin
Charlie Wilson and The O'Jays' Polar Extremes of Soul
Ramsey Lewis, Tower of Power, Anthony Hamilton and More Help Playboy Jazz Festival Turn 40.
Piano Wonder Joey Alexander's Third Outing Proves He's On The Path to Mastery
MeShell Pretzels and Dives Beneath The Surface of `80s & `90s Soul Hits
En Vogue | Electric Café
Sade | "Flower of the Universe" (From Disney's 'A Wrinkle In Time')
Peabo Bryson LIVE at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley - Seattle, Washington | March 2nd, 2018
Walter Beasley - The Best of Walter Beasley | The Affable Years, Volume 1
Sy Smith | Sometimes a Rose Will Grow in Concrete
Dr. Lonnie Smith | All in My Mind
Soul Man Owens' Country Cash Project Pays Off Some of the Time
Fantasia | Christmas After Midnight
Take 6 LIVE at Jazz Alley in Seattle, WA | Sept. 21st, 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hide