In 1992, singer/songwriter/sax-extraordinaire Curtis Stigers lent a rendition of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding ” to the iconic soundtrack of The Bodyguard. This was around the same time as his eponymous debut album and it was packed with glorious hair, running snare, blasting sax, and gospel-effect 90s jazz. Between then and now Stigers has released more than a dozen records and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” has been redone more times than even Nick Lowe, or anyone, probably wished.
Curtis Stigers has always been open about his appreciation of his past and honored by his roots. He makes time to touch base with local news whenever he’s making a return to Boise, Idaho, he even paid homage to his early years with “Swingin’ Down At 10th & Main” on In Our Town: Songs for Boise 150. Now, three decades since he began his journey, Stigers returns to a collection of his previously-released works; this time reimagining them through a smokey, speakeasy jazz ear and reflecting on This Life.
This Life, eleven individual journeys into the past, without vanity or pretense, is a record that is bittersweet in reminiscent familiarity and soothing in a coming-to-terms with the perpetual marching of time. While the record is technically a “covers album” (of his songs) I’d be downplaying the legacy of Mr. Curtis Stigers by packaging it into such a superficial label. There’s an almost finality feeling in each track we’ve come to appreciate throughout the years, but they’re individually wrapped in a warm sense that becomes like meeting an old friend at an old bar, sipping an old drink without missing a beat. The jazzy framework to each track of This Life speaks to the abilities of Stigers (if they were ever in question) while making us feel this is how they were intended all along. This dichotomy of fresh-yet-familiar is the glue that keeps This Life together. It is the incentive to get your hands on this record. This Life is the card Curtis Stigers has had up his sleeve all along and the albums that brought us here were merely test runs of brilliant jazz insight over thirty years.
“Swingin’ Down At 10th & Main” settles into the penultimate slot in This Life. Fittingly, as if a life of worldly success and travel has brought Stigers back to the steps of the Idanha, his well-aged vocals pair superbly with the humbled cool air of This Life. Modern American jazz doesn’t get much better than this. A true master of his craft, Curtis Stigers knows we all have but one life to live and he, naturally, makes the most of This Life.