BWW CD Reviews: Stearns Matthews' SPARK Swings With Pizzazz
Three-time MAC Award Nominee and celebrated solo cabaret performer Stearns Matthews recently released his debut solo album SPARK. Featuring music from Broadway musicals and some cabaret standards, the record serves as a wonderful introduction to his earnest and soothing lyrical baritone instrument. Each of the 11 tracks on the album is a song most already know and love, piquing interest in SPARK. Yet, Stearns Matthews wins us over as he sings them in such a way that the numbers sound completely brand new again.
With the timbre of Broadway vocalists and the jazzy arrangements from the world of cabaret, Stearns Matthews' cheerful, dulcet tones sparkle across the album. Here, there is no denying that Musical Director Christopher Denny knows how to perfectly set the voice and allow it to take center stage. As a duo, Stearns Matthews and Christopher Denny ensure that each performance is filled with tangible heart, vocal prowess, and is perfectly expressed.
Standout numbers in the lush collection include the album's opening track "The Spark of Creation" (Stephen Schwartz). From the tinkling of the chimes played by Rex Benincasa on drums, the audience is pulled into the spirit of the song. Then, Stearns Matthews greets us with his zealous and uplifting take on the number. Burt Bacharach and Hal David's classic "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" is sung with an indefatigable plucky attitude, and is pristinely blended with "Singin' in the Rain" (Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed), giving the jazzy cabaret standard a fascinating new ending. The never before recorded "My Alligator and Me" (John Bucchino) is sung with whimsy and charisma, ensuring that listeners can't help but smile.
Across the album, Stearns Matthews delivers strong performance. His take on Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "My Romance" is endearing and lushly romantic. His rendition of "King of the Road" (Roger Miller) swings with pizzazz as he croons in that famed Las Vegas cabaret way. Then with delicate hushed tones, a vibrant belt, and a passion for pristine vocal performance Stearns Matthews turns Joe Raposo's "Sing" into a stirring, inspirational anthem.
If cabaret vocalists are what thrill you, there is no reason not to add Stearns Matthews' SPARK to your collection. If you love the Broadway baritone and, like me, often find him under utilized, then this album is one you should check out. If you enjoy well-executed performances of great music, SPARK has your name all over it. After all, with six years of entertaining cabaret performances under his belt, Stearns Matthews' SPARK seems to give a sound impression of what the cherished performer sounds like live. However, like others who will stumble across this album, I haven't had the chance to see him in concert, but SPARK has made sure that I won't miss my next opportunity.
Chlo-Rita Productions digitally and physically released Stearns Matthews' SPARK on November 1, 2014. The album can be purchased from iTunes and CD Baby. Autographed copies are available for purchase here. For more information about Stearns Matthews and SPARK, please visit http://www.stearnsmatthews.com.