Due for release Sept.7, 2018, Allen Austin-Bishop’s “No One Is Alone” is a collection of ballads that span some of America’s greatest years of jazz and pop. Most adult listeners will be familiar with songs like “The Way We Were,” “Alfie,” “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and “Summertime.” These classics set standards in American music and became well-known for their beauty and emotional qualities. Austin-Bishop recreates those qualities in a series of interpretations that are as heartfelt as they are skillful. In 13 songs, Austin-Bishop manages to capture significant approaches to the ballad.
Austin-Bishop’s vocals are highlighted by the work of a trio that also played on his debut recording from 2017. The musicians are pianist Alex Maydew, bassist Mao Yamada and percussionist Rob Hervais-Adelman. “Sorry Grateful” is a collection of standards. The singer, who was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, has been based in London for years. His previous release, “Sorry Grateful,” helped to grow his audiences in the UK. But with “No One Is Alone,” Austin-Bishop is poised to make his musical mark on the world.
Tracks that highlight Austin-Bishop’s talent are “The Way We Were,” “Summertime,” and “Amazing Grace.”
“The Way We Were” by Allen Austin-Bishop
The Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman penned song was made famous by Barbara Streisand. It was the theme song for the dramatic movie of the same name that was released in 1973. Ever since, it seems, singers have been trying to find ways to make the song new and to put their own spin on it.
Austin-Bishop manages to do this by virtue of his vocal qualities. His baritone is a surprising vehicle for the song that typically comes to life when sung in high, airy, women’s voices. But Austin-Bishop seems to overcome the challenge by playing with phrasing and rhythm just a bit. His voice adds a bit of wistfulness and melancholy to a song that was already packed with emotion. It is certainly not difficult imagining Austin-Bishop’s version bringing the song to life for new audiences, whether or not the song is included in a movie.
“Summertime” an American opera classic turned jazz by Allen Austin-Bishop
Ever since its inclusion in the American opera, “Porgy and Bess,” (Both of which were written by George and Ira Gershwins), various singers have attempted to cover “Summertime.” Most famously, Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson brought the song to life as part of a medley that includes “Motherless Child.”
Austin-Bishop’s voice and phrasing shine here. The slow pace, the brushed drums, and the nonchalant bass and piano all make the song a bit more bluesy. The sound and feel is intimate, like a small club performance. Despite the feel, there is nothing about Austin-Bishop’s take on the song that is laidback. His phrases burst with energy, often at the ends. His stylized pronunciation of words also adds to the song’s new feel.
“Amazing Grace” by Allen Austin-Bishop
The song never loses its Gospel feel. Again, Austin-Bishop uses his phrasing and the deep, sometimes raspy qualities of his voice to play up the humility contained in the traditional lyrics.
On “Amazing Grace” Austin-Bishop doesn’t hold back. He lets loose the raw power of his deep voice, and the rasp heightens the emotional quality of his voice. The result is a song that sounds new even after hearing thousands of versions.
This is the song that closes the album and it is nice to hear that there is a live audience to appreciate what Austin-Bishop has brought to this song.
“No One Is Alone” takes a different approach to classic songs that have been covered by some of the most famous voices of the 20th century. That Austin-Bishop can add something to the songs covered here is an accomplishment in itself.