Bunny Sigler – “Angel Eyes”
“Angel Eyes” is a jazz standard. It’s been recorded by so many artists over the years. Perhaps the most well-known renditions are the Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra recordings. It’s been performed by so many people over the years, though. The list reads like a “who’s who.” People like Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Stan Kenton and The Four Freshmen did it before Sinatra ever did. His version pre-dated the Fitzgerald one by a couple years. The Fitzgerald version is far from the final one to this point, though. Willie Nelson did it with Ray Charles. Barry Manilow recorded it. So did Roberta Flack. Even K.D. Lang did her own version. Of course, that’s really what makes something a jazz standard. So, let’s have a look (or rather a listen) to this particular recording.
They make a number of excellent artistic decisions solidifying the song’s quality. The blending of piano lines with strings strikes a perfect note and reinforces the languid, melancholy mood without ever over-emphasizing it. The best vocalists tailor their singing to the arrangement and Sigler is no exception. He finds an ideal balance between his tone and the backing track that is, undoubtedly, informed by decades of experience.
Much of this is, undoubtedly, attributable to the years Bunny Sigler has spent among the forefront of R&B/soul singers. His work with producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff are part of the foundation of his reputation, but those skills allow him to branch out from the constraints of those forms and handle any material put in front of him. Sigler, likewise, has a strong bluesy vein in his voice that serves him well here. His phrasing never religiously adheres to the work of past vocalists and that’s good. Instead of conjuring up some tribute to Sinatra or the score of other performers who’ve tackled this track, Sigler establishes his own vision for how “Angel Eyes” should play out and it is an unqualified success.
I love this version of song. It is the kind of thing that would be at home in an old black and white movie from the golden age of Hollywood. It has a temporal-alteration element. It makes you feel like you’ve been transported to an old, classy jazz club. The sound is so authentic and romantic. This sways with a slow groove that’s positively addictive. It should go without saying that, even in covers, there really isn’t a lot of music like this still being recorded in 2017. Bunny Sigler doesn’t care though. This is the work of a supreme interpreter still working at or near the peak of his powers and investing the familiar with a sheen of personal magic that reaches far beyond merely hitting one’s marks. He has obviously given every bit of himself to this tune as if it were some R&B/soul barnburner or an original song written especially for him. Bunny Sigler’s “Angel Eyes” is one more thunderous success in a long career dotted with numerous achievements. “Mr. Emotion” is back for another go around and the music world is a better place for his return.
Mary Angela Tobin