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JAZZ REVIEW : Guillaume: All Voice, No Show

November 02, 1987|ZAN STEWART

Robert Guillaume, star of TV's "Benson," possesses a powerful voice capable of deep lows and strong sky-high falsettos, a voice that effectively blends Al Hibbler's ringing vibrato and Johnny Mathis' light timbre. But being able to sing and putting on a riveting performance are two quite different things, as Guillaume showed Friday at the Celebrity Theater in Anaheim.

Guillaume showed what a solid event needs: focus. He meandered casually through a hodgepodge of pop-based tunes which bore only slight resemblance to each other.

Beginning with a zippy "The Song Is You," Guillaume segued to the syrupy "Lovely Way to Spend an Evening." Both were heavy on the glitz.

On one ballad, "The Light of Truth," his dusky sound seemed affected, but on the closing "I Want to Know What Love Is," he was believable. Guillaume was at his best on the bluesy "Frankie and Johnny," where he worked with resonance and feeling.

Nancy Wilson, who opened the evening, once did things simply, and did them well. Wilson used to rely on her pleasant alto and her intuitive sense of a song's meaning to give her interpretations their appeal.

But here, she didn't so much sing as put her songs across, employing antics like out-of-place falsettos, growls, tug-of-wars with the rhythm and body contortions that detracted from the performance.

This excessiveness roughed up several pieces, including "Guess Who I Saw Today?" This heart-wrenching tune was all but thrown away as Wilson mocked--with an overly animated lyric reading and some inopportune growled phrases--its poignant tale of a wife witnessing an indiscretion by her husband. But her fans are loyal, and the more Wilson whooped it up the more they applauded, eventually giving her three standing ovations. So much for the rewards of good taste.

"If Dreams Come True" was one tune that was done without theatrics, and it sounded just fine. Wilson was supported handily by Llew Mathews on piano, John B. Williams on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums.

Pieces of a Dream was scheduled to perform but was cancelled by the promoter, Dawn Productions, according to a Celebrity Theater spokesman.

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