Pharaoh's Dream

Pharaoh's Dream

Official Biography (courtesy of Pharaoh's Dream)

When multiple music artists band together, the results are sure to be twice as nice. That's exactly what happens with Pharaoh's Dream and the exhilarating new release "Wistful Elegance," which started when London-born David Nathan, noted R&B historian and author met up with a musical legend. "The premise for "Wistful Elegance" came out of a conversation I had with famed Philadelphia producer Thom Bell," Nathan explains. "We talked about the idea of doing a CD that was more acoustic or ‘unplugged.' I love the saxophone, and any time I've heard a voice and saxophone together, I think it's amazing. Thom thought a project bringing those elements together was an incredible idea."

Enter Preston Glass, award-winning producer (Kenny G.'s double platinum "Duotones" album, as well as work with Earth Wind & Fire, George Benson, Jennifer Holliday, Johnny Mathis and many more), songwriter (Aretha Franklin's "Who's Zoomin' Who," Natalie Cole's "Miss You Like Crazy," etc.), multi-instrumentalist and former associate of both Narada Michael Walden and - bringing things full circle - Thom Bell. "When David Nathan was working on his first CD, "Reinvention," recalls Glass, "I gave him a song, ‘When Your Heart Whispers Love," which he included. Then, after David spoke with Thom, he approached me about working on the new project."

"The first thing we did," Nathan continues, "was to sit down at the piano. Somehow, Preston got a sense of me, as a person, and wrote this song, ‘Wistful Elegance.' That became the theme for the whole CD." Glass remembers it in the same way: "When we starting talking about the project, David noticed that a lot of the songs had a wistful quality to them, and then in another meeting he described them as ‘elegant.' I put the two words together, and then I started thinking of David. The songs on Wistful Elegance have a vibe that is true to him."

Adhering to Jerry Wexler's dictum that it all begins with material, the pair assembled a truly special mix of the known and obscure - all suited to the expressive treatments of Nathan, who credits the great Roberta Flack for providing him with early encouragement and guidance; Flack subsequently wrote liner notes for Wistful Elegance. "Knowing what a superb listener Roberta is, her ‘stamp of approval' meant so much to me," says Nathan. "I was so humbled when I read what she wrote and having her words on the Pharaoh's Dream CD was a deep honor. Then having such amazing artists as (longtime industry friends) Will Downing, Kenny Lattimore, Najee, Lynne Fiddmont, Peggi Blu, Thelma Jones ad Johnny Britt (of Impromp2) on this project was a true blessing!"

Curtis Mayfield's poignant "The Makings of You" starts everything off on a note of warm contemplation, with Nathan delivering a richly interpretive vocal ("I just wanted to do something very simple and plaintive," he notes. "It's like a prayer for me"). "When the World Turns Blue" benefits from the added luster of R&B star Kenny Lattimore on background vocals, while Nathan's penetrating take on "Children of the Night" boasts two superb guests, singer Will Downing and flutist Najee. Burt Bacharach and Hal David fans will rejoice over the inclusion of the seldom-heard "I Took My Strength from You," a scorching duet with soulful song stylist Peggi Blu, and lovers of Philly soul will be similarly thrilled with "How Could I Let You Get Away," delivered by Nathan in a sparkling rendition complete with sultry sax.

An engaging highlight of the album is a version of Heatwave's little-known but very catchy, "All You Do Is Dial," a song suggested to Nathan by Michael Lewis, his colleague and partner at the award-winning website "I'm so glad David and Michael thought of that song," Glass enthuses. "It happened to fit perfectly, especially with his voice and the other songs we were doing." The bonus track, "Who Stole The Moon," a sterling Nathan original (co-written and produced by J.J. Schoch) is a smooth jazz-flavored piece written some years ago that like many of the other songs on Wistful Elegance, the track conjures up a certain visual imagery and with its infectious hook, it is one of the CD's standouts.

Adding diversity to the brew are a few surprises, including the Moody Blues' pop classic, "Nights in White Satin." "I always thought that ‘Nights in White Satin' could be done in a soulful way," Nathan muses, "so I thought, ‘let's see what will happen if we soul it up a bit!'" Nathan's bold, adventurous reading gains further strength from the excellent work of saxophonist Craig Thomas who plays throughout the album and the astounding piano artistry of Giovanna Imbesi, who plays on two other tracks and, incidentally, acted as producer on his first CD. Of Imbesi, who has worked with Narada Michael Walden and other luminaries, Nathan says simply, "She's simply excellent!"

Rounding out this exemplary package is another little-known gem, "Change Up" (featuring Nathan's good friend, singer Thelma Jones, on featured vocals), and a moving interpretation of "Wild Is the Wind" (produced by Ted Perlman), a song associated with one of Nathan's greatest influences and friends, the incomparable Nina Simone. Taken as a whole, the eleven songs comprise a recording as varied and spirited as the participants involved - none more wholly than Nathan himself. "What I felt after we finished everything was that the entire CD had a certain mood to it. I want this music is going to touch people and letting people hear my musical heart."


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