Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Anyone who recalls Aaron Neville's rendition of "Star Dust" on Rob Wasserman's 1989 album "Duets" or Neville's cover of "These Foolish Things" on his own 1993 collection "The Grand Tour" recognizes that the New Orleans singer knows his way around a standard.
So Neville's Verve album "Nature Boy: The Standards Album," which arrives Aug. 26, will please fans of the versatile vocalist who have always longed to hear him wrap his distinctive pipes around more tunes from the great American songbook.
"Me and my brother Charles have been talking about doing some stuff like this for a while," Neville says. "We were just waiting for the chance.
Neville has a long history with some of the songs on the set. He has performed "The Very Thought of You," "Cry Me a River" and "Summertime" since his club days in the Crescent City. The old Nat "King" Cole hit "Nature Boy" was one of his father's favorite songs, while his mother was fond of New Orleans vocalist Annie Laurie's version of "Since I Fell for You."
Produced by keyboardist Rob Mounsey, "Nature Boy" places Neville in an intimate combo setting, occasionally dressed with subdued string arrangements.
The players are top-flight. The core band includes Mounsey, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Grady Tate. Guests include Neville's long-running duet partner Linda Ronstadt, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, tenorist Michael Brecker, guitarist Ry Cooder and fellow Neville Brother Charles.
"The Very Thought of You" was recorded with Ronstadt, Neville's duet partner on the Grammy Award-winning 1989 hit "Don't Know Much."
"I love singin' with her," he says. "We complement each other. She brings somethin' out of me, and I bring somethin' out of her ... She's a belter. She's got a great voice, she can reach these heavy notes, but when she sings with me, she comes down and gets tender. It's like a marriage of the voices."
Neville is maintaining a busy schedule with his family band, but he will do special nights of the "Nature Boy" material Oct. 16-18 at Birdland in New York. The shows will feature performers on the album and possibly some special guests.
Excerpted from the Aug. 23, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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