Aaron Neville

Nature Boy: The Standards Album

Melisma, that gospel-singing technique of fluttering all over a note like a butterfly rather than singing it straight on, is a pox on modern music. However, in the hands of such a master as Louisiana soul singer Aaron Neville, it is a gift from the heavens. Here, Neville caresses his way through music by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and even Eden Ahbez (the title track, a hit for Nat “King” Cole). Neville sings one duet, 1930s English bandleader Ray Noble’s sublime “The Very Thought of You,” with Verve labelmate Linda Ronstadt, who once revived her career with this type of adult make-out album. He’s sensitively backed by Rob Mounsey (who also arranged and produced), Anthony Wilson, Ron Carter, Grady Tate and others. Very nice.