Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Whisper My Name – CD Review

Steven Santoro is a hopeless romantic, at least on his newest CD, and we are the better for it.

On Whisper My Name (Red Lion Music), he sings and writes primarily of many forms of love - and the ups, downs and frustrations of romance - the ‘it will last forever’ puppy love, unrequited love, hopeful love, and the we-can-work-it-out kind of love. Also the love-of-mankind that will overcome issues and problems we face as individuals or as a people.

Santoro’s debut CD Moods and Grooves (produced by the late Ahmet Ertegun) came out in 1995 on Atlantic Records under the singer’s real name, Steven Kowalczyk. He now uses Santoro, which was the last name of his saxophone-playing grandfather, Libertore Santoro.

In addition singing and writing memorable songs, Massachusetts-born and Connecticut resident Santoro the Younger teaches at the Berklee College of Music and is the lyricist for a new musical, "Ivory Joe Cole," which is scheduled to open this summer at Alliance Theatre, a professional residence theater company in Atlanta.

Confident and hip with a pleasant and assured mid-range voice, Santoro opens his newest CD project with the swinging double-time message of "Whisper My Name" - a tune that conveys he’s prepared to go his own way but will be back in a flash if his former lover merely whispers his name. It’s subtle and clever in its lyrical construction - and a great introduction for listeners who may not be familiar with him.

Santoro wrote 10 of 11 tunes here, plus a bonus track called “Run Away” from his R&B-laced tandem project Where I Come From. The lone chestnut here is the Jimmy Van Heusen-Johnny Mercer classic, “I Thought About You” - another romance tune of course.

Another treat is his R&B-tinged “Waiting for Grace,” which is about another sort of love – salvation. (“Life is a slap in the face but I’m still waiting for grace.”)

There are many more such fine gems on this very pleasant and intriguing CD. Check it out. Santoro gets stunning support throughout from saxophonist Jon Childers, guitarist Marc Ciprut, pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn.

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