GMCD 7247 – From Another America – Songs of America
Kevin Maynor – Bass, Eric Olsen – Piano
Classics Today Sunday April 13 03
If you like singing, especially songs in English sung by an artist who really knows how to project and present emotion and meaning while maintaining impeccable technique clothed in rich, dark, mellifluous tone, then you shouldn’t hesitate to investigate this fine recital by bass Kevin Maynor. Maynor is a world-class and world-renowned recitalist and opera singer who happens to be African-American and thus, as he describes in the notes, carefully chose this program “mindful of how different the world perceives the United States of America . . . mindful of slavery days in this country . . .” and attempting to “consider the feelings of others, both negative and positive.” As such, he’s selected quite a diverse and meaningful–as well as entertaining–lineup of songs, from the spirituals Go Tell It On the Mountain and This Little Light O’Mine to America the Beautiful, God Bless America, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Maynor taps a whole other aspect of American song and sensibility with standards such as Irving Gordon’s Unforgettable, Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday, Charles Chaplin’s Smile, Manning Sherwin’s A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, and George Gershwin’s Love is Here to Stay. There are no fancy arrangements: the songs are presented in a straightforward, clearly stated, unadorned manner, with Maynor’s wonderfully expressive voice and Eric Olsen’s solid, supportive piano simply giving life and substance to the melodies and texts, in Maynor’s words “inviting the listener to interpret [them] as she or he sees fit.” Maynor’s style is one of a mature, experienced opera singer, albeit one who understands that these are not arias but beloved, popular tunes, and he’s able to keep them in that context while preserving his commanding vocal presence and artistic integrity. The sound is very fine, the voice bold and resonant and the piano robust and natural–except for some tinniness in the upper registers.