Accomplished New York cabaret jazz vocalist Richard Malavet has been crooning audiences with his silky baritone voice for several years, performing at such noteworthy cabaret venues as Judy's Cabaret, Eighty Eight's, Don't Tell Mama's, Judy's Chelsea, Danny's Skylight Room Cabaret, Mama Rose's and Encore. His self-released debut Who Can Say What Love Is? is a dynamic and eclectic suite of songs by legendary songwriters/composers Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, as well as songs by the inimitable R&B / pop innovator Ray Charles, acclaimed composer/conductor Lalo Schifrin and newcomer Ben Moore. Produced, mixed and engineered by george walker petit, the album reflects Richard's vastly diverse musical heritage and influences.
Malavet was born and raised in the heart of East Harlem ("El Barrio"), New York in the 1960's to native Puerto Rican parents. Music was in his blood. It was the pulse and soundtrack of the City that was his home. His father sang in a neighborhood group in the 50's and had aspirations to become a professional singer. His uncle, King Nando (and His Orchestra), recorded several mambo / Latin boogaloo albums in the 1960's scoring a minor hit in 1964 with "Fortuna" (from Shing-A-Ling With King Nando), which was popular in the Spanish market.
During his formative years, Richard absorbed the multi-dimensional sound waves of Spanish Harlem's cross-cultural urban oasis gaining inspiration from a diverse array of artists including: Latin masters Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto, seminal vocalists Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Carmen McRae, Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett, evocative song stylists / baritone balladeers Johnny Hartman, Billy Eckstine and Joe Williams, jazz innovators Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, contemporary jazz-fusionists / modern jazz singers Al Jarreau, George Benson, Andy Bey and Roberta Flack and R&B vanguards like Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and Teddy Pendergrass. Naturally, he gravitated towards singing and performance.
"I've been singing since I was a kid he explains. "It has always been my greatest passion. Over the past two decades, I've been studying voice working with many master jazz teachers including Jay Clayton, Sheila Jordan, Nancy Marano and Mark Murphy."
For his highly-anticipated debut Who Can Say What Love Is?, Malavet fashions a timeless modern classic drawing inspiration from his vast musical lineage. The 11-track set finds the competent entertainer deftly adapting his evocative, charismatic style, keen interpretive intelligence and rich Baritone vocals to a body of songs that demonstrate his aptitude with a diverse array of genres. Delving into torch songs, Broadway classics, jazz standards, Latin, R&B, blues and contemporary pop with a masterful dexterity, the dulcet-toned auteur emerges as a gifted song stylist and a polished, enthusiastic storyteller.
Assembling an all-star jazz ensemble including Ross Patterson (piano), Don Falzone (bass), Rex Benincasa (drums), George walker petit (guitars) and Justin Flynn (saxophone), with additional percussion by Todd Isler (and George walker petit), Malavet creates a fresh and sentimental collection that is both enchantingly vintage and boldly modern.
Who Can Say What Love Is? introduces audiences to Richard's long love affair with American popular song spanning the decades. It's a sentimental homage embodying the spirit of the performers whose song he performs while offering an unfettered view into his creative artistic expression of those songs. The eclectic inspired work features exciting interpretations of timeless songs by legendary songwriters/composers Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne ("Time After Time"), Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern ("Make Believe"), Betty Comden & Adolph Green/Leonard Bernstein ("Lucky To Be Me") and Vernon Duke ("Autumn In New York") alongside selections from pre-eminent Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez ("Silencio"), Ray Charles ("Ain't That Love") and newcomer Ben Moore ("Who Can Say What Love Is").
Opening with a rousing, swing rendition of the classic 1920's tune "Sometimes I'm Happy," Richard embodies the cavalier bravado of the songsmiths that have come before him, each adding their own unique stamp to the classic, namely Joe Williams, Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan. What becomes most apparent is the artist's unique ability to channel the masters without any attempt to impersonate them. Instead, he breathes new life into each composition, slightly updating them for a contemporary audience.
The artist reaches similar heights with the uplifting "Ain't That Love" and "Nice 'n' Easy." On "Ain't That Love," Richard captures the ragtime blues-rock of the Ray Charles penned original with a fluidity, full-bodied delivery and rousing sound all his own. His illuminating reading of Sinatra's quintessential swing hit "Nice 'n' Easy" finds the singer basking in the Vegas-styled crooning that made Sinatra, Tormé, Martin, Crosby and Bennett household names while giving birth to a new generation of dedicated devotees like Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé.
Richard is most radiant on the more intimate and introspective selections such as "Inolvidable," "Who Can Say What Love Is?," "Time After Time" and "Autumn In New York." On "Inolvidable," a well-known 1960's Mexican classic tale about a painful break-up with a lover who was unforgettable, Richard's delivers the penetrating narrative with a distanced sentimentality of an older and wiser lover-spurned whose memories of that great lost love have quelled over the years. The soaring title track (a new composition written by Ben Moore) finds the auteur at his most passionate and honest, sharing an emotional anthem about the freedom to love whoever you want.
With the swoonsome "Time After Time" (written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne for the movie musical It Happened in Brooklyn), Richard channels the tender and commanding vocal caresses of Johnny Hartman, Johnny Mathis and original vocalist Sinatra with a flawless sensitivity and remarkable enunciation. The sentimental ode to the Big Apple, "Autumn in New York," is a superb contemporary jazz-pop interpretation of the Vernon Duke ("April in Paris") classic. Poised for adult contemporary / smooth jazz radio, the track is highlighted by the exquisite warm sax of Justin Flynn.
The rich musical lineage honored on Who Can Say What Love Is? is undeniable. The sparkling work not only showcases the beauty and timeless quality of the songs included, it also offers a candid glimpse into the emotions, individual personalities and humanity that enables these songs to come to life. Much like the influential vocal legends that made many of these songs uniquely their own, Richard Malavet emerges as a worthy heir of that esteemed pedigree and legacy.
To quote music critic Laurie Lawson: "With a voice that soars, he [Richard Malavet] takes a song, infuses it with passion, and hands it back to you as a treasured gift."
Richard Malavet, Who Can Say What Love Is? is out October 25th on Malavet Music.