Ahhhhhh yes…Stepping Out commences with an intriguing staccato piano figure, drops into skoobly-op, and then bursts forth with Anthony Strong's clear, confident, and peppily seductive take on Cole Porter's Too Darn Hot, after which follows a parade of classics chockablock with five of his own co-written numbers. That's just the start. Change My Ways speeds the tempo, Strong melodically tossing out every word in precisely accentuated fashion, boppin' 'n poppin' until Nigel Hitchcock stands up and goes nuts on sax, Strong succeeding him on the keys (he's the cat who plied the piano in the opening track and continues to do so throughout the disc),
I suppose Tommy Tutone and Harry Connick Jr. would be the best comparatives here, but I'll also revert to one of my obscure favorites: Robert Kraft. Kraft's pair of jazzy, boppy, poppy LPs in the late 70s/early 80s (Moodswing  and Retro-Active )—showcased warm, witty, friendly, accomplished, zwee-boppin' work that was quite infectious. Strong takes that from the nightclub onto the stage and thus the Tutone/Connick manifestation. Everything here reads like a well-produced revue that quickly gains mounting word-of-mouth enthusiasm and becomes an overnight hit, running for many seasons, re-staged year to year everywhere across the country.
Did I say "across the country"? Mr. Strong is actually a Brit and this moment being hailed as "England's new jazz superstar", but he's deeply enamored of The Great American Songbook while also digging on Kurt Weill (My Ship, not often covered) and Stevie Wonder (Overjoyed). Upon hearing the guy, even Rod Stewart was provoked to say "F**cking amazing!" Too true, too true. Every aspect here has been tooled and polished to a fare-thee-well, shining from stem to stern, beautifully arranged, romantically orchestrated in the ballads, and so on, and when he holds onto and modulates that the final note in When I Fall in Love, well, you don't know quite what to say…so just sigh like the rest of us.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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