Everett Greene | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Everett Greene 

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EVERETT GREENE

When Indianapolis jazz vocalist Everett Greene tackles "Everything I Have Is Yours," one of the late Billy Eckstine's signature ballads, he doesn't even try to distance himself from the source. And why should he? Through a combination of genetic accident and personal choice, Everett sounds a lot like Eckstine--so much so that he'd be foolish to ignore it. Besides, he could hardly find a better model: in his heyday, Eckstine influenced scores of singers with his velvet bass-baritone, pinpoint vibrato, fathomless blues sensibility, and sigh-inducing balladry, ruling the roost as the African-American answer to Frank Sinatra. He'd also have inspired scores of imitators--if more than a few of those he'd influenced could match his voice's resonant power or so adroitly separate sentiment from kitsch. (Arthur Prysock and Johnny Hartman both managed it before Greene.) Greene, who's 64, has remained a midwest secret for most of his career, but this year he enjoyed a double dose of national success: he issued his first album, the languorously romantic My Foolish Heart (Savant), and finished among the five finalists (out of 300 entrants) in the Thelonious Monk Institute's competition for jazz vocalists. Greene exploits the thrilling power of his lowest notes the same way Eckstine did, with a tight vibrato that expands as he climbs up his considerable range. And like both Eckstine and Sinatra, his sure appreciation for the jazzmen with whom he performs lets him draw on their improvisational expertise without making ill-conceived attempts to imitate it with scat. You might be inclined to write off an artist so clearly patterned after a master, but in 40 years of singing Greene has brought plenty of himself to the music. He doesn't just sing like Eckstine; he recalls and comments on him, with glorious revivals of classic ballads and blues. This trio performance is a birthday tribute to jazz vocalist Joe Williams. Monday, 1 PM, Randolph Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-1426. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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