JAZZ JOURNAL, Wall2Wall Jazz Festival review
Singer Kevin Fitzsimmons has the most unenviable job in jazz: sounding original in the male-jazz-vocalist mould that defies being broken or reconstituted. But he’s his own man especially when accompanied by Leon Greening on keyboards, drummer Matt Fishwick and, on this occasion, Alec Dankworth, who was depping on acoustic bass. Concentrating on jazz singing of the 1960s (for this show) meant Fitzsimmons had to locate the corners into which jazz had been forced by that misnomered “swinging” decade. But there was much to uncover, not least songs from films such as The Italian Job (the Quincy Jones/Don Black numberOn Days Like These) and a few songs associated with Mel Tormé. Fitzsimmons is highly personable and “a musician’s singer” – dread expression but one validated by the way Greening and Co. encouraged the vocalist and he them.
WALES ARTS REVIEW, Wall2Wall Jazz Festival review by Nigel Jarrett
Kevin Fitzsimmons sounds like Kevin Fitzsimmons. He has a rich and strapping voice, instantly recognisable, and unlike a lot of singers he’s embedded himself in the perfect band environment, where he’s complemented as a swing merchant by pianist Leon Greening (here on keyboards), drummer Matt Fishwick and, depping for the Abergavenny appearance, no less than Alec Dankworth on bass. The group concentrated on jazz singing in the 1960s, ending with a version of Lennon-McCartney’s ‘Norwegian Wood’ as a belated and tacit admission that in many ways jazz was drowned out by pop in that decade. Mel Tormé is a strong influence, ‘Sunday In New York’ and ‘All That Jazz’ being associated with him and here divorced from any thought of slavish imitation. The voice is different, anyway. Drawing on music for films, the group – it’s hard not to think of Fitzsimmons and Co. as a group – took on the Quincy Jones/Don Black song, ‘On Days Like These’, from The Italian Job, and one of a few ballads, ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’, from My Fair Lady. Male jazz singing of this sort has settled into a few formulaic licks which makes it difficult to pin down originality. But the way Fitzsimmons flies freely around his themes, sometimes making you wonder whether he’s travelled too far, is exciting to hear, an aerial performance. He always arrives home in one piece. And he has a few tricks of his own, one a kind of alliterative stutter, employed sparingly.
THE JAZZ MANN, Wall2Wall Jazz Festival review by Ian Mann
Billed as “The In Crowd: Jazz in the Swinging 60s” this was a selection of arrangements of jazz tunes and other music from the 1960s, including a number of songs from movie soundtracks of the time. Fitzsimmons proved to be an engaging stage presence and he was supported by a very classy trio including Leon Greening on piano and Matt Fishwick at the drums with ‘supersub’ Alec Dankworth deputising on double bass. I’ll admit up front that Fitzsimmons’ style of singing isn’t really my favourite genre of jazz but the class of musical company that he keeps speaks volumes for his vocal talents. Fitzsimmons’ elastic phrasing characterised a playful version of the Burt Bacharach / Hal David classic “This Guy’s In Love With You” in an arrangement inspired by Herb Alpert as he interpreted the lyric alongside Fishwick’s brushed drum grooves and Greening’s customary solo. 60s movie soundtracks proved to be a rich source of inspiration for the quartet with Fitzsimmons returning to sing a ballad interpretation of “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” from the film “My Fair Lady”. He also injected an unexpected dash of humour into the proceedings with some improvised lyrics while the instrumental plaudits went to lyrical and melodic solos from both Greening and Dankworth, both of them accompanied by Fishwick’s subtle brush work. There were more improvised lyrics plus a passage of scat vocalising on a Latin-esque arrangement of “ On Days Like These”, written by Quincy Jones and lyricist Don Black. It was Adderley’s version of the Rodgers & Hart song that also provided the inspiration for the quartet’s arrangement of “Little Girl Blue” with Greening’s piano approximating the sound of the raindrops mentioned in the lyrics and embellishing Fitzsimmons’ tender interpretation of the words. Dankworth’s melodic bass solo was also a highlight with Fishwick providing subtly brushed accompaniment. The influence of Tamla Motown was acknowledged with an arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Working Day & Night” from the “Off The Wall” album. Although not strictly a 60s tune it remained true to the spirit of the project and was given a jazz/blues treatment that worked well with Fitzsimmon’s vocals augmented by a vivacious Greening piano solo. The influence of The Beatles on the quartet’s chosen decade was too big to ignore and this found expression in the closing number, a jazz arrangement of “Norwegian Wood” which found Fitzsimmons enjoying himself as he stretched the phrasing of the lyrics out of shape and scatted joyously alongside Greening’s final piano solo. While this (genre of jazz) wasn’t entirely my personal cup of tea there was certainly much to here enjoy.
GRAPEVINE MAGAZINE, Live Review by R Haywood (Jazz Reviewer,Eastern Daily Press) 03/2016
The full audience were visibly delighted at a Norwich Jazz Club gig by singer, Kevin Fitzsimmons who, to my surprise, had never come up on my musical radar before. I should have guessed at his talent, originality and sheer musical skill for he was introduced and hosted by Norfolk jazz
celebrity, Simon Brown, at one of the most intimate venues in Norwich, the bar room at the Maddermarket. The first stunning moment was when I walked into the venue to find it was jammed to capacity with not a seat or even an inch of space to spare: clearly the jazz aficionados of Norwich were more ahead of the scene than I was. The singer who caused all this excitement was supported by an immaculate, swinging trio, with Leon Greening extracting everything possible from the venue’s majestic grand piano, Adam King on dramatic bass and Matt Fishwick on subtle, swinging drums. What consummate and coordinated performers these four proved to be. Kevin is a confident but unassuming performer who has that rare vocal skill of total control of all he does and a supremely mature mastery of the audience, much to their clear delight. He has an outstanding voice of great depth and clarity, with echoes of Mel Torme, and a sheer polish to his tone and diction that might only have been matched by Sinatra at a similar age. He sings in a clear yet dramatic way that makes every word of the lyrics both clear and packed with the emotional emphasis that the original writers would have loved. I have rarely heard a singer with such control, especially over his vibrato which he can bring in slowly and gently yet increase to a dramatic intensity, across a single long note. Though he was new to me, he has performed at many of the most significant venues across the UK, including regular sell-out appearances at Ronnie Scott’s.
LONDON JAZZ NEWS, Review by Frank Griffith
Vocalist, Kevin Fitzsimmon’s début CD, Show Me The Way has illuminated this listener’s path with gusto. The album sports a blend of popular fare, with Kevin’s own fetching songs and lyrics. His rich and resonant vocal quality hearkens the post-1950s sounds of Matt Monro and Steve Lawrence with an extra dollop of East London-cum-Essex edgy crust. It all adds up though: his understated delivery makes the less-is-more approach pay back. A more than capable, all-star London lineup includes stalwarts like flautist, Gareth Lockrane, trumpeter, Steve Fishwick and saxman, Alex Garnett. Juggling three keyboards, Leon Greening acquits himself admirably with effective turns on Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer. Ahh,…the glorious 60s and 70s. Recording engineer, multi-saxist and co-writer of two of Fitzsimmmon’s songs, Derek Nash, plays no small part in this offering as well. There is a wide range of repertoire in this songfest including Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” to McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood“, plus the leader’s title song and his engaging opener, “Blues For You“. This nifty 12-bar has a clever set of alternative blues changes penned by Nash. “Show Me the Way“, indeed. What a gas to be aboard, what a journey to be on. Frank Griffith
JAZZWISE MAGAZINE, Review by Selwyn Harris
*** This recording by the London-based crooner Kevin Fitzsimmons could hardly be called unusual, but in one respect it actually is. It has a ‘room’ studio sound that’s due to it being recorded live straight to analogue tape. Fitzsimmons sings standards and originals and a few new standards, one being a version of The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ that’s reminiscent of Kurt Elling’s in that Fitzsimmons isn’t afraid to naonchalantly wander off the melody line while still capturing the song’s essence. He even manages to make Paul Weller’s ‘You Do Something To Me’ swing. His originals are on the more derivative, quaint side of things but Fitzsimmons’ supple, naturally versatile vocal and the warmth of his voice (aided by the recording’s live analogue set up) helps to steer the session away from the schmaltzy showbiz side of popular jazz vocals. The list of personnel above attests to the cream of the UK’s straight-ahead jazz musicians and they sound solid and groove aplenty. Lovers of the jazz vocal mainstream have another star to follow. Selwyn Harris
UKVIBE (JAZZ CLULTURE ONLINE), Review by Tim Stenhouse
**** Male jazz vocalists are thin on the ground and this most promising of debuts from British vocalist Kevin Fitzsimmons is a very encouraging sign that modern jazz and male vocals are not incompatible. There is a definite nod to tradition in the voice itself which has shades of Sinatra and Mel Tormé, and Kurt Elling into the mix. However, the latter has skilfully weaved in modern elements and Fitzsimmons has cleverly incorporated electric piano, flute and big band accompaniment which is to his credit. Among the musicians flautist and leader in his own right Gareth Lochrane has been enlisted and his presence along with a host of other experienced musicians that includes Jools Holland’s saxophonist Derek Nash has added a classy level of sophistication to proceedings. The mid-tempo waltz ‘Moving’, which features a lovely bass line from Dominic Howles and the expansive flute of Lochrane, is a treat from start to finish while ‘I’ll never be the same’ may prove to be an unexpected dance-floor ditty for jazzistas to feed upon. A thoroughly modern interpretation of ‘You Do Something To Me’ with electric piano and brass impresses greatly as does an intimate take on the ballad ‘Lush Life’ that Johnny Hartman gave a near definitive version of with John Coltrane exactly fifty years ago. Kevin Fitzsimmons is a singer with plenty of potential and his mastery of ballads will only increase with time. He excels at present on uptempo numbers and possesses a voice that can be adapted to both blues and jazz idioms and his forte and individual sound may lie somewhere between the two. Tim Stenhouse
MARLBANK, Review by Stephen Graham
***1/2 So, what’s the state of crooning, jazz singing grounded in the Rat Pack? Well up there already are Alexander Stewart and Anthony Strong. But fast coming up on the inside is London-born singer and lyricist Kevin Fitzsimmons. Recorded using classic analogue equipment and featuring a band comprised of some of the finest modern mainstream players around (pianist Leon Greening, drummer Matt Fishwick, bassist Dominic Howles, trumpeter Steve Fishwick, tenorist Alex Garnett [the flat cap-wearing don of the scene] and flautist Gareth “The Strut” Lockrane with alto sax veteran Derek Nash also on board), it’s Greening who breaks first on some superbly caught Rhodes electric piano with Garnett wailing against Fitzsimmons’ confidently full-throated vocal on ‘Blue For You’. It’s a song Fitzimmons has written words for to music by Nash. I suppose you might think for a minute of Curtis Stigers’ vocal style but it’s not as cornily sincere and not Bublé-like at all which is to Fitzsimmons’ eternal credit as nearly everybody in this area either sounds like the Canadian megastar (as Stewart does) or Harry Connick (as Strong does, and before him Jamie Cullum did). Some of the songs are a little too cutesy (‘View From the Quayside, Slightly Intoxicated’ for instance) but mostly it works. ‘Lush Life’, ‘You Go My Head’, and the title track, Fitzsimmons’ unreconstructed ‘Show Me the Way’, are the tracks to gravitate towards; and certainly here Fitzsimmons shows he is a thoroughbred jazz singer and can even swing a superior rock song such as Paul Weller’s ‘You Do Something To Me’ as Greening takes it out on a Wurlitzer. SG
JAZZ CAMERA, Review by John Watson
An extraordinary number of fine young singers have emerged on the scene in recent times, and London-born Kevin Fitzsimmons is another strong talent, blessed with a rich voice, mature phrasing and a superb sense of swing. Standard songs on this disc include Norwegian Wood, It’s Alright With Me, Lush Life, You Go To My Head and You Do Something To Me. But the tracks I enjoy most on this recording are originals: Fitzsimmons’ own pieces – Blue For You, Views From The Quayside Slightly Intoxicated, There Must Be Something Out There, Show Me The Way and Multicoloured Misery – for these demonstrate distinctive character and a more personal style.
The backing band is really excellent: saxophonist Derek Nash (who shares the credit for most of Fitzsimmons’ compositions), flautist Gareth Lockrane, saxophonist Alex Garnett, trumpeter Steve Fishwick, pianist Leon Greening, bassist Dominic Howles and drummer Matt Fishwick. A very fine debut album, which is distributed by Harmonia. John Watson
IRISH INDEPENDENT/SUNDAY INDEPENDENT, Review by Grainne Farren
Fitzsimmons is a British singer/songwriter of Irish descent, apparently influenced by Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling, to judge by this album. The warmth of his approach enhances his own songs, from the humorous There Must Be Something Out There to the lonesome Multicoloured Misery. Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life is something of a test, and he passes it with honours. Grainne Farren
THE NORTHERN ECHO, Review by Peter Bevan
Fitzsimmons is a fine singer/songwriter who’s produced a very enjoyable album combining covers and riginals. What makes it realy sparkle is some, great swinging accompaniement from some outstanding jazz musicians including Alex garnett, Matt & steve Fishwick, Derke Nash, & Leon Greening. Peter Bevan
LIVE GIG REVIEWS
By MOREOPINIONS (JAZZNIGHTS) Blog
“This performance at Jazznights was delivered with a superb presence and this was a truly memorable experience which he performed with the Roger Odell Trio. The full house audience made its appreciation and enjoyment of Kevin’s performance abundantly clear, they loved his interpretation of the great American songbook. It was beautifully sang and not just with the standard versions but with Kevin’s unique personality and unique interpretations. A brilliant gig.”
By THE SOHO SHOW
“I was intrigued to see was how the album came across live. I am pleased to say the overall performance was excellent. The set began with Blue For You, an original piece with music written by Derek Nash and lyrics by Fitzsimmons. By the third number Views From The Quayside (Fitzsimmons/Greening), Fitzsimmons was looking very comfortable: interjecting songs with repartee and jokes. During the evening the audience were treated to a mix of songs, some on the new CD some not, some covers and some originals, notably Voodoo Rex (Nash/Fitzsimmons) that was performed for the first time, unrehearsed, proving that the ensemble had all the credentials needed rise to dizzy heights. Other highlights of the evening included a stunning handling of Paul Weller’s You Do Something To Me and another original by Fitzsimmons and Nash – Multicoloured Misery. My advice is catch him perform before he goes stellar.”