John Dokes – True Love (2019)

John Dokes - True Love (2019)
Artist: John Dokes
Album: True Love
Genre: Vocal Jazz
Origin: USA
Released: 2019
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
A Sleepin’ Bee
Nobody Else but Me
Never Let Me Go
You Are Too Beautiful
Pure Imagination
Eleanor Rigby
Cool Enough
Everything Must Change
Comes Love
You Don’t Know What Love Is


A half-hour and six diverse standards into True Love, John Dokes applies his mellow, smooth-as-butter baritone to a song of his own, “Cool Enough,” with instrument-like phrasing, pristine articulation and exemplary time at a medium-up tempo that is best described as swinging. It depicts a man’s delight at overcoming his resistance to emotional transparency and commitment, thereby earning the affections of his beloved. “Am I cool now, or a fool somehow, thinking a guy like me could make a girl like you happy,” Dokes sings. “Well, baby, when this day is through, I don’t want to rise and look for someone new. I want to wake up and be cool enough for you. Am I cool, am I cool?”

As you probably know if you’re perusing these remarks, the answer is decidedly affirmative in the multiple arenas in which Dokes operates. Perhaps you’ve observed the suave, elegant figure he presents when singing in front of the George Gee Big Band or interacting with the smooth, kinetic A-list rhythm section that propels him through both this well-wrought recital, on which master alto saxophonist Mark Gross rounds out the quintet, and on its well-received 2017 predecessor, Forever Reasons, another quintet outing on which bandmate David Gibson played trombone. Or perhaps you’ve witnessed Dokes’ prowess as a swing dancer, documented on several Youtube clips in which he carries his virtuoso chops with the casual grace of a gentleman, preferring to complement his partners, while never sacrificing his individualism. Or maybe you’ve encountered Dokes the businessman, fulfilling his obligations as the Global Chief Marketing Officer of AccuWeather.

It’s certainly cool how, throughout the proceedings, Dokes inhabits each narrative with a well-considered point of view, illuminating the nooks and crannies with subtle vocal inflections and rhythmic permutations, conveying the messages with a smooth, punchy, soulful delivery that evokes his first main influence, Joe Williams, the iconic Basie band singer.

But there’s nothing cool about what Dokes does with his voice on the set-opener, “A Sleepin’ Bee,” to which he was introduced by Nancy Wilson’s and Cannonball Adderley’s 1961 collaboration, following ebullient solos by Gross and pianist Steve Einerson, he spins variations on the concluding line of Truman Capote’s lyric (“When my one true love I have found”), then fades out with the chant “true love, true love, true love.”

After swinging hard on Jerome Kern’s and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Nobody Else But Me,” Dokes offers a nuanced treatment of the famous Nat Cole vehicle, “Never Let Me Go” that retains emotional weight as a medium bossa. His brisk interpretation of Rodgers & Hart’s “You Are Too Beautiful” signifies on Johnny Hartman’s iconic reading: “There’s such clarity in the lyrics that I knew I’d be able to speed it up and have fun with it without losing the song’s meaning.”

He evokes the wonderment of “Pure Imagination,” a favorite since he saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factoryas a child; his 3/4 treatment of Paul McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby” brings forth the poignant “optimism despite the circumstances” embodied in the characters of Father MacKenzie and the title’s dedicatee.

Dokes voice-dances to the fulcrum of Lawrence Leathers’ groovin’ straight-eighth clip-clop on Bernard Ighner’s “Everything Must Change”; the drummer’s New Orleans funk cadences also offer opportunity for rhythmic play on “Comes Love,” a famous vehicle for Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae to which Dokes became attracted via Loston Harris’s 1998 version.

As on Forever Reasons, Dokes concludes True Love with George and Ira Gershwin’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” but this time transitions from the more traditional ballad treatment of the earlier date to a brisker pace inspired by Ahmad Jamal’s kaleidoscopic tour de force with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernell Fournier on the 1958 album Live At The Spotlite.

Dokes hopes that True Love will be the second installment of a trilogy of quintet albums, to be followed by a prospective session with a yet-to-be-determined trumpet player. “I’m never satisfied,” he says. “I still get surprised when people know who I am. I hope I’m always a little bit surprised, no matter what happens — if I’m walking around expecting people to know who I am, then I’m not me any more.”

-Ted Panken (liner notes from “True Love”)