Fred Wisdom Words of Wisdom Review

BBC Review

Debut album from guitarist and vocalist Wisdom mixes jazz, blues and soul grooves...

Peter Marsh 2004

In a world where Katie Melua is somehow considered a jazz singer and Jamie Cullum is touted as the saviour of British jazz, then the arrival of a homegrown vocaltalent like Fred Wisdom is a bit of a breath of fresh air.

Wisdom calls himself a jazz singer, but he's not a purveyor of MOR schmaltz or a pale photocopy of Sinatra (or even Harry Connick Jr). And you won't find him tackling the usual standards or banging out swingin' versions of Jimi Hendrix or Radiohead songs either, which can't be a bad thing.

All the material on this debut is self penned, and while it may not win any awards for originality, it's delivered with verve, honesty and a lack of pretension that makes it hard to dislike. Wisdom's mix of blues, airy modal jazz and soul is dispatched admirably by a band of Midlands based jazzers. including the wonderful Chris Bowden on alto.

There's a looseness and immediacy to the recording (which was made live) and plenty of solos from all concerned, which (particularly in Bowden's case) is no bad thing. Wisdom's deep, honeyedvoice has a distinct Caribbean lilt to it (ironically it reminded me of Sting on occasion), and there's a warmth and honesty in his delivery that's totally unforced. Even when the lyrical content veers close to cliché (as happens on occasion) you're inclined to forgive him as he does actually sounds like he means it.

As the sleevenotes suggest, this is probably a band best heard live, and I can imagine that some of the songs would work much better in that setting. I could do with hearing some more of Fred's guitar talents as well; his one solo on the record ("Copyright on Pain") is very sweet indeed. Why there's no more is a bit of a mystery. But if you're looking for something other than fake cool or string drenched ballads from the current crop of major labeljazz singer product, then you should check this one out, but catch them live too...

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