Robert E. Person
Classic Covers (EP)
REP Music (release date: June 1, 2018)
By Bob Marovich
Washington DC singer Robert E. Person has peppered his previous projects with songs representing a variety of genres. His latest release, Classic Covers, is more of a jazz than a sacred EP, though it includes his very fine recent single, a collaboration with Richard Smallwood on the latter’s 1989 “I Give You Praise.”
Among the classic covers Person offers are the Stylistics’ social commentary piece “People Make the World Go Round,” and “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music. Both benefit from deft solos by pianist Allyn Johnson and jazz violinist Griffith Kazmierczak, and small combo-style percussion from Carroll Dashiell, III.
Where Person really shines is on “Sarah,” from the Tony-nominated 1998 musical The Civil War, a show that at one point included BeBe Winans in the cast. I could kick myself for not having heard this song until now. It is a gorgeous piece made lovelier by Person’s high, light, and romantic delivery. This could well be his best work to date, as it demonstrates his versatility of range—from beefy baritone to an almost Johnny Mathis-like litheness.
It’s not the first time Person has recorded songs from musical theater. For his 2015 Love Divine, he sang a duet with Dottie Jones on “Somewhere,” from West Side Story. Given Person’s stage background, it’s not surprising that his talent for show tunes surpasses all other genres he works within.
In addition to the talented jazz musicians and other players, Classic Covers features well-known gospel recording artists Ronnette Harrison and Roderick Giles among the background vocalists. But above all, it’s Person’s commanding voice that ties everything together on this brief but enjoyable album. Although it would be outside JGM’s purview, a CD of all musical theater numbers, done with the same singers and musicians used on Classic Covers, would be an excellent concept for Robert E. Person to consider.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “I Give You Praise,” “Sarah”