I like my jazz nasty. And Curtis Stigers tends to lean more toward the smooth, which can be a hazard of playing the saxophone.
But for his performance Sept. 14 at the Egyptian Theatre, Stigers primarily played material from his new album, Let's Go Out Tonight, which leans much closer to Stax Records-era soul than it does smooth jazz gangstas like Kenny G. One song, "Oh, How it Rained," was co-written by Steve Cropper, guitarist for Otis Redding, and at times, Stigers' tone could have passed for the late legend.
Stigers has described Let's Go Out Tonight as a trip into his record collection, and it's clearly a good one. He even threw in "That's All Right," the song that launched the career of a young upstart named Elvis Presley.
But Stigers also briefly cut into an a cappella version of "Call Me Maybe," by Carly Rae Jepsen.
"I can't get that out of my head," he said to his band. "We can do a swing version of that, right?"
His puzzled drummer nodded, sure.
Stigers' tunes were spot on, his band is comprised of world-class musicians, and he really knows how to work a crowd with asides and wonderfully dry stage banter. He introduced his guitar player for the evening, "Shakey" Dave Manion, as being from a variety of Eastern European Soviet bloc nations, before copping to his actually being from the North End.
Then he played a song from his first album, which he said was "released in 1890 when Taft was president."
It all killed. And while the audience would have loved whatever came out of his mouth, the show lacked any pretense of intimacy. The Egyptian may be one of the only rooms in town that can fit Stigers, but much of the material deserved a smaller, darker room. After this show, I regretted not catching his special performance at Neurolux in November 2010.
Knowing it would be months before he plays Boise again, Stigers performed two sets. Good luck Boise, that'll have to hold you.