CD Review by Scott Yanow:
Joe Mancuso is an excellent jazz singer based in St. Louis. He has sung regularly in his hometown since 2011. Cut To The Chase was recorded during a period when his group performed at Café Eau inside of the Chase Park Plaza Hotel each Thursday night. Mancuso and his trio (pianist Jesse Gannon, bassist Willem von Hombracht and drummer Steve Davis) are joined by tenor-saxophonist Christopher Braig on four of the 13 standards. The rhythm section is tight and swinging and Braig’s tenor solos are a nice touch.
From the start of the opening number, a catchy version of “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” it is obvious that Joe Mancuso has a strong and appealing voice that is always in-tune. Sometimes his tone hints a little at early Tony Bennett while his scatting during a chorus of “On Green Dolphin Street” has him sounding slightly like Dave Lambert. Mancuso is very skilled at placing his notes in the perfect spot, holds long tones well, always swings, and makes it obvious with the happiness in his voice that he enjoys singing.
While all of the standards are familiar, the spirited arrangements include regular surprises. “Cry Me A River” is interpreted as a medium-tempo dirge,” “Autumn Leaves” works very well as a ballad and the closer, “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You,” is taken as a cooking swinger. Other highlights include an infectious “All Or Nothing At All,” “Angel Eyes” and Benny Carter’s “Only Trust Your Heart.”
Fans of swinging singers will certainly enjoy Cut To The Chase, an impressive effort by Joe Mancuso.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Jazz Singers, The Great Jazz Guitarists and Jazz On Record 1917-76