DARRYL RICHMOND, "I've Got Faith"

Newcomer Richmond debuts with originality, style and panache, and a somewhat unlikely mix of influences that he pulls off flawlessly.

Newcomer Richmond debuts with originality, style and panache, and a somewhat unlikely mix of influences that he pulls off flawlessly. Clearly affected by classic gospel quartet music, he holds onto that genre's bounce and rhythm, as well as some smooth vocal tracks ("Everyday Gets Sweeter"), but obviously got into somebody's classic Nat "King" Cole, Brook Benton and Mel Torme collection along the way. Sounding like no other artist recording gospel today, Richmond's originals, as well as reinventions of hymns and classics of the church ("Leaning on the Everlasting Arms") tend toward a small, jazz-club-combo groove, with Richmond a smooth and ingratiating a crooner in the finest tradition of his mentors. -- Gordon Ely