Release Date: 2007
(Subsequently released in 2008 as Listening in the Dark)
Label: Frank Senior
1. This Can’t Be Love
2. You Don’t Know Me
3. On The Street Where You Live
4. You’re Mine You
5. Autumn Serenade
6. Someone To Tell It To
7. The Best Things In Life Are Free
8. The Very Thought Of You
9. Just You Just Me
10. When You Walked In The Room
11. Route 66
Frank Senior (vocals)
Bob Mover (tenor sax, alto sax, soprano sax)
Richard Clements (piano)
Saul Rubin (electric guitar, keyboards)
Eric Lemon (bass)
Hassan JJ Shakur (bass)
Jacob Melchior (drums, percussion)
Efrat (violin, viola)
This remarkable debut recording by Frank Senior is the result of a grass roots effort to bring this great talent to light. Clearly jazz still finds a home in some of the small project studios that dot Manhattan, where independent recordings are made by whatever means just because the art demands it. At Zebulon Sound and Light, the generous-natured master guitarist Saul Rubin nurses a steady stream of recordings for deserving artists to fruition in his room. Here Saul worked with Frank and Frank’s longtime associate, drummer Jacob Melchior, and together they developed a very special disk, far too special not to receive a wider audience.
Frank Senior has more than the vocal talent to make this record shine; he’s got the heart and the feeling, and each note comes forth rich, resonating from the deepest fibers. Music makes this man come alive. One can only imagine; perhaps his experience of music is especially vivid, like a transmodal kaleidoscope of sonic colors. But one thing is for certain, and that is that the soul that Frank Senior brings to his music is 100% genuine, and that’s the fact that counts.
Ken Dryden, All Music Guide
Four stars. Recommended.
Frank Senior is one of many musicians who waited a long time to make his recording debut. Blind since birth, he studied music in high school and majored in voice at New York University, though he left music to run a newspaper stand and raise a family. After appearing in a small part in the early-’80s film Turk 182, he rekindled his interest in performing jazz, singing in a number of Manhattan venues and eventually receiving an award from the National Endowment of the Arts. But it wasn’t until 2007 that he laid down the tracks heard for this CD, arranging 11 tracks with some help from guitarist/keyboardist Saul Rubin and pianist Richard Clements. Senior’s friendly baritone voice is rich in tone with a slight vibrato at times, his band provides perfect backing throughout the session. There’s no mistaking the influence of Ray Charles in his warm reading of the opener, “You Don’t Know Me.” His easygoing touch in the swinging treatment of “On the Street Where You Live” is accented by Bob Mover’s delightful tenor sax. He backs in the samba setting of “Autumn Serenade,” while the Ray Charles influence returns in the soulful, swinging setting of “Route 66.”
Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times, January/February 2009
If 10 of the 11 tracks that fill Frank Senior’s debut album seem familiar, perhaps it’s because they were first released last year under the title Let Me Be Frank. Now, with one added track, a rollicking “Route 66,” the aptly named Senior (who stalled his performing career for several decades, putting his family’s needs first by operating a newsstand) is back on store shelves and ready to impress fans of soulful jazz singing.
Given Senior’s sandpapery growl and innate bluesiness, coupled with the fact that he opts to open with “You Don’t Know Me,” it’s tempting to categorize him as a Ray Charles wannabe. Indeed, Senior-who, like Charles, has been blind since childhood (actually, in Senior’s case, since birth)-owes a considerable debt to Brother Ray. But he is equally beholden to Billy Eckstine, Lou Rawls and George Benson. In other words, Senior has learned from the best, and comes away with a sound all his own that is at once tender and tough, vulnerable and impermeable.
With pianist Richard Clements and guitarist Saul Rubin, Senior has crafted consistently imaginative arrangements, including a peppy “This Can’t Be Love,” a breezy “On the Street Where You Live,” a gorgeously satisfied “The Very Thought of You” and a delightfully effervescent “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” But the standout track is Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s obscure “Someone to Tell It To,” a gentle admonition of a loveless life’s emptiness, made all the more profound by Senior’s superbly sensitive reading.
Owen Cordle, Raleigh/Durham News & Observer
Makes an eloquent case for a veteran singer who deserves greater recognition. With a voice at times similar to Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and bluesman Johnny Adams, Senior, blind from birth, swings naturally and tells a lyric story without forcing it.
His soulful singing seems to inspire equally soulful performances from his accompanists — a more buoyant attack in the piano, a deeper way of leaning on certain notes in the saxophone, a springier walk in the bass.
You’ve heard these songs before. But like the lyric of “On the Street Where You Live,” one of the standards here, says, “the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.” There’s a lift in every performance: “You Don’t Know Me,” “This Can’t Be Love,” Autumn Serenade,” “Route 66” and others. Senior’s accompanists include alto, tenor and soprano saxophonist Bob Mover, guitarist and keyboardist Saul Rubin, pianist Richard Clements, bassist Eric Lemon (replaced by Hassan J.J. Shakur on one cut), drummer Jacob Melchior and violinist and violist Efrat.
Clements has a bluesy touch and groove reminiscent of early Ramsey Lewis. Mover mixes his bebop roots (he’s of that era) with oblique twists of phrase.
Mark Keresman, MUZE
A blind-from-birth New York City native, Frank Senior is a jazz-oriented, blues-tinged singer in the mold of Nat “King” Cole, Ray Charles, and Charles Brown. Like them, he has a rich, easy baritone voice that falls stylistically between jazz and blues, between pop and cabaret. Accompanied by an intimate group of musicians–featuring the elegant, Lee Konitz-like saxophone of Bob Mover–Senior makes like the king of what Frank Sinatra once dubbed the “saloon singers.” Cole himself made many of the songs on DARK famous, and Senior does the tradition proud.
Smalls Records Press – October 17, 2008
Promise comes along every so often, but it is very rare for a jazz singer to emerge on the international stage in full-blown glory; now comes Frank Senior with promise well and truly fulfilled—on his debut recording. This one will stop you in your tracks, with the feeling you’re hearing for the first time someone famous they forgot to tell you about.
Blind since birth, Senior knows the world by its sound. He knows the city by its pulse. He knows you for what you have to say. He knows the music of love. And he returns sound back to the world in vocal kind, telling it like it is, and saying it like he means it. His golden voice obliges him, and his thorough training gives him a bedrock foundation for a very soulful sound.
He’s joined here by a stellar band, featuring saxophone great Bob Mover, guitarist Saul Rubin, pianist Richard Clements, bassists Eric Lemon and Hassan Shakur, drummer Jacob Melchior, and violinist Efrat.
Senior himself is no overnight sensation. He was a music student at NYU in the 1970s and has been singing for many years, developing a loyal following along the way. But you’d have to have been alert to catch him until now. Senior is a man of the people, someone who is used to bringing his trade around the upper east and west sides of Manhattan, where he has standing invitations from a multitude of restaurants and clubs to perform impromptu. Senior has a special ability to reach out to people of all kinds in a city notorious for its tough audiences, and to get them to forget their cares for a while. His commanding performance is a part of what makes this record so special. Thanks to the perfectionist in him, we’re left with no doubt that a major vocal force has arrived.