One of the most indelible R&B/pop hits of the 70s, “Never Can Say Goodbye” – penned by Clifton Davis - was originally recorded by Isaac Hayes but became a classic thanks to versions by The Jackson 5 and Gloria Gaynor. After a stunningly diverse, decades long career as an actor (“Amen,” “Madam Secretary”), Broadway and touring show performer (“Aladdin,” “Wicked”) and minister, the songwriter records it himself for the first time as the title track of his lushly produced debut as a stylish jazz crooner.
Featuring, the elegant, spry backing of The Beegie Adair Trio, lush string arrangements and rousing, gospel tinged vocals by Take 6, the dreamily soulful version lays the foundation for an inviting, lightly swinging collection that paints a warm narrative of the many passions and musical loves of Davis’ life. Driven by his warm vocal approach and Adair’s lively piano, Davis weaves part of his narrative via Great American Songbook Standards by the likes of Frank Loesser (“I’ve Never Been In Love Before”), Henry Mancini (“Two For The Road,” a sensual duet with Monica Ramey), Jerome Kern (“The Folks Who Live on the Hill”) and Johnny Mercer/Richard Whiting (“Too Marvelous”).
As engaging as those are, the emotional core of the 12-track set are his lush, balmy and spirited exotic-lite twists on tunes that reflect his passion for Brazilian music and the Portuguese language – including “So Many Stars” (by Sergio Mendes and Alan & Marilyn Bergman), the Mendes/Jobim composition “Somewhere in the Hills” and Ivan Lins’ “Comecar de Novo.” Davis also contributes two originals, the ultra-romantic “Swept Away” and the gospel driven, beautifully inspirational expression of faith “Leaving It Up to You.”
Here’s hoping that Never Can Say Goodbye is more than just a one-time blast from the past, but the beginning of a successful career for Davis as a jazz and Brazilian jazz interpreter.