A Cloak of Passion with Baritone E.J. Decker

"Oozing with insinuation and dripping with testosterone, the smoldering voice of baritone E. J. Decker is something unusual these days. Many excellent tenor singers make the jazz circuit, but to intentionally and prematurely train one’s naturally bari voice to stretch even further into sub-woofer territory and do it with class and sass requires a rare talent.

A devotee of the great low voices, one in particular has held Decker’s fancy more than the rest: Arthur Prysock. Decker has devoted a whole lot of research and love into his latest project, a CD called Bluer Than Velvet: The Prysock Project, which will be released this April. Whether shadowed beautifully by a hot and sultry trombone or a passionate bari sax, Decker gives songs like '(I Don’t Stand) A Ghost of a Chance' or 'Since I Fell For You' new spark and more than a hint of lust."                                   —Debbie Burke, Debbie Burke: Jazz Author

(See the full interview with Debbie Burke, click here.)


"A white boy whose father was replaced by Sinatra in the Dorsey band found out that those classy, black baritone vocalists had something going on. After hearing Arthur Prysock bring the class, the die was cast. Hitting it out of the park here in the classiest of ways, Decker isn’t aping Prysock so much as he is following in his footsteps. One of the class acts of the past, this is a smoking way to make sure he’s not forgotten."                                                                                                                                   —Chris Spector, Midwest Record, Lake Zurich, IL            


"First, Arthur Prysock. Arthur Prysock was one of those artists who straddled the jazz and R&B genres who, while gaining attention, never became a household word except to those listening closely, like vocalist E. J. Decker, who effectively pays homage to this unsung hero on Bluer Than Velvet: The Prysock Project. Prysock began his career in 1944 with the Buddy Johnson Band, and then, going solo in 1952, after initially signing with Decca Records as a younger version of Billy Eckstine or a more R&B version of Johnny Hartman, with whom he is most closely compared. Prysock was noted for his deep and quietly virile baritone voice and unique vocal delivery. So perfect is E. J. Decker’s voice for this project, Decker had been encouraged by the late Mark Murphy (yes, THAT one) to pursue this project.

Bluer Than Velvet: The Prysock Project is a generously appointed release consisting of 14 songs associated with Prysock. Decker's vocal delivery here is so unique and idiosyncratic that its immediate identifiability emerges as its most potent charm. Decker croons these songs over a piano-guitar quartet augmented by the superb baritone saxophone of the most sublime Claire Daly and the trombone of Elizabeth Frascoia: low reeds and brass to complement the low register of Decker's delivery. 'What A Difference A Day Made,' 'When I Fall In Love,' and 'On The Street Where You Live' all bare the marks of a carefully developed voice. An excellent recording by any measure."  
—C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz

A Job of Work (Tales of the Great Recession)

"… Your CD is wonderful, and you have a great sounding voice. Reminds me of an Elvis jazz sound, but you're definitely an original. You certainly are my taste! I just love your sound and it's relatively rare. I always loved Elvis's sound. You have a jazz sound, though—but some of the same sounds with that deep voice. Just great."
—Sheila Jordan, NEA Jazz Master, jazz vocalist


Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)


"…Blends the old and new, and [comes] straight from the heart, [with] real empathy. ... At the same time, your presentation [is] classic. Your take on "Street Of Dreams" is one of the very best I've heard, and "Cottage For Sale" was heartbreaking. It literally brought me to tears … your delivery of that song was devastating … an incredibly moving performance! Music which obviously comes from the heart. That's an increasingly rare thing in this day and age."   
—John Segers, WUCF-FM, Orlando, FL


"Sit back and listen to this!"   
—David Kenney, Everything Old Is New Again, WBAI-FM, New York, NY


"What a treat. He has [a] voice that has the smoothness of the late Barry White. But, unlike Barry, we are hit with the raspiness of a mountain lion. Check it out."
—John Shelton Ivany, TOP 21  Magazine, National News Bureau, Capitola, CA


"The more I listen to it, the more [I like it]. … the entire recording is all about what's going on with the recession, and I think it certainly has a story to tell in this day and age, especially lately."
—Janine Santana, Party 934 & KUVO-FM, Boulder, CO


Rating: 4 (out of 5)  "E. J. has a wonderfully smooth baritone vocal tone that is most suitable for the blues. Decker self-characterizes it as "low notes for low times"! The 'low times' he refers to are our debilitating recession. There are twelve classic covers that are perfectly fitting today. 'Cottage For Sale,' 'Born To Lose' and 'Everything I Have Is Yours' are a few in a set that has something that will resonate with every listener. Decker delivers each tune with a warm, passionate, punch..."
—D. Oscar Groomes, O's Place Jazz Magazine


"Here is the new album by E. J. Decker, a veteran singer from New York who follows the old school tradition of Billy Eckstine and Johnny Hartman. You can amply feel the weight of his long career in his rich baritone and swinging vocals. ... Primarily backed up by a piano trio with added baritone sax and trombone on select pieces, this is a generous display of Decker’s talent, including his own arrangements on all tracks. Solos from the band members are also worthy of listening. Nice album!"
—Shigeyo Hyodo, Jazz Page, Tokyo, Japan


"A well thought out and beautifully arranged CD."
—Elliott Ames, WVOX, White Plains, NY


"Liner notes writer Bobby 'The Jazz Mind' Jackson has it perfectly encircled when he notes that E. J. Decker's work is a matter of 'easy-going unpretentiousness…[with] the common touch…[and] an immediate likability,' because that's exactly the way I felt upon hearing the very first cut, a great do-up of an obscure Tom Paxton gem, 'A Job Of Work.' Why did he choose to cover Tom's piece? I suspect for the same reason as Paxton: E. J.'s a prole and has the generosity of mind to empathize with the [honest] sentiments of others just trying to get by.

Decker seems like the kinda cat who works in a steel mill, a cabinetry factory, maybe even a mine, and puts in a hard day's work, then heads home to knock back a beer, throw on an LP, and sing along. ... It might be that often lower-register voice, distantly mindful of Paul Robeson, or it might be the unavoidably masculine atmosphere he can't help but occupy (again that honesty: ya gotta be what ya are), or perhaps it's the metropolitan Humanism that pervades his work.

Whatever it is, it fascinates because it melds the common with the exotic, in a perfect cross of the urban mundane alongside an aesthetic that refuses to die and blow away, to occupy a ghost land. Instead, it waits patiently and then recurs whenever someone like Decker finally comes along. 'Born to Lose' is perhaps the most perfect example. Delivered in honky-tonk parlance, think of it as the version that came from Texas and a jazzed-up hipster Willie Nelson, instead of Georgia and Ray Charles..."  
—Mark S. Tucker, FAME (Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange), Peterborough, NH


"It is a work of art! Great job..."
—Linda Yohn, WEMU-FM, Ypsilanti, MI


"I'm proud of him. That's good stuff!"
—James Janisse, KEBN Radio, Los Angeles, CA


"The stories you tell through these songs are wonderful... your writing is something special."
—Eric Cohen, WAER Radio, Syracuse, NY


"[Saxophonist] Claire Daly and the rest of the backing bunch take these songs that hinge quite a bit on the various depressions this country has gone through and make them sound like '30s cartoon music, putting Decker's [voice] into an interesting setting. Recording once a decade or so, Decker takes steps to make it count and stand out as well. A wild set of quiet fire that has 'after hours' written all over it, but it gives you this strange feeling that 'after hours' starts around 6 a.m. Certainly a set to keep in mind when you want to encounter something completely different."
—Chris Spector, Midwest Record, Lake Zurich, IL


"He has a rich voice, for sure!"
—Slim, The Slim & Him Show, WRCU-FM, Hamilton, NY


"Thank you Ronen Kahali [radio host of 'The Jazz Business' from Holon, Israel], for putting the next track on to me... It's an album called A JOB OF WORK, by E. J. Decker. Never heard of him; vocalist. When I first heard it, I wasn't sure. But, after about three plays, it's really growing on me."
—Ray Porter, UK Jazz Radio, Ipswich, Suffolk, England, UK


"The new release by E. J. Decker..., 'Lush Life'... He did a pretty good job on that, I think. For any singer, it takes a lot of courage to sing that song."   
—Rick Tozier, WMEA-FM, Bangor, ME


"Love it!"
—Tony Soley, 10RADIO & TONE-FM, Devon, England, UK



While The City Sleeps...

"It’s so nice to finally hear someone who knows what they’re doing!”
—Laurel Watson, Jazz vocalist (Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sonny Stitt)


"I'm telling you, man, this cat can SING!"
—Johnny "Tasty" Parker, Trumpet (Count Basie)


Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5) "E. J. Decker has a strong voice touched by that of Billy Eckstine, although he has his own sound. While Decker mostly sings the lyrics and themes of the dozen songs fairly straight (although with swing), his quintet adds a strong jazz content to the music. ... Highlights include 'While The City Sleeps,' 'Tenderly,' 'Since I Met You Baby' and 'You Don't Know Me.'"
—Scott Yanow, All Music Guide


"I have had the perception of late that the current Jazz vocal field was dominated by women, but males appear to be holding their own in the genre. ...

E. J. Decker sings in a deep baritone voice while being accompanied by an up-tempo quintet on While the City Sleeps... (Candela EJ9265). His presentation is lush, and his songs have a tinge of brash elegance. Decker has a way of presenting his tunes using dynamic flair, and he commands attention through his direct and forceful delivery. He seems to prefer singing lesser-exposed standards, and he displays a bold stroke of authority on each of them. He also composed one of the program's ballads where his low voice effectively stretches and holds the notes. Decker keeps the melody line always in sight, but he does have a knack for accentuating phrases and word endings to give uniqueness to his performance. He occasionally dips into the Elvis Presley deep throated, rolled-word approach, but he is able to carry it off without seeming imitative.

The band, consisting of trumpeter [Randy] Sandke and tenor player [Bob] Kindred in front of the [Les] Kurtz, [Dave] Hofstra, [Tom] Melito piano trio, plays with incisive strokes in keeping with the pace set by Decker and his strong voice. They are able to get brassy and overt without diminishing Decker's role. The band stretches out with choruses of swinging music during the vocal breaks, filling in all the spaces with full-bodied blowing. Even with all its strength, the band does not steal any of the thunder of Decker. When he re-enters, he is in full charge, giving a fruity flavor to each tune. Decker sings many romantic tunes, but he does not come across as a sentimental romantic. There is just too much punch in his style to make that association. Nevertheless, he is a solid entertainer."
—Frank Rubolino, Cadence Magazine


"Among the high points on this album are his rich, baritone voice, a similarly rich knowledge of the jazz vocabulary, and the consistently solid performances of the instrumentalists.

One is first struck by Mr. Decker's rich baritone voice. It reminds the listener of Johnny Hartman, Billy Eckstine and so many great crooners of the past. His tone is resonant, his articulation immaculate. Mr. Decker's vocal inflection shows a clear understanding of the lyrics for each of his selections.

Similarly, he evidences a rich and far-reaching vocabulary of jazz and jazz influences. It is obvious, from the tune selection upward, that Mr. Decker is aware of the roots of this idiom. From "Tenderly" to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" to "Sea Cruise," he offers a thorough presentation of his knowledge of the phraseology of the genre. For instance, on "It's Just a Matter of Time," a down-home blues selection, he uses all the slides, smears, growls and inflection of a true blues-man. From this extreme, to the other; on "Sea Cruise" (not generally thought of as a jazz song) he is equally familiar with appropriate devices, inflections and style. Mr. Decker does a wonderful job in synthesizing the jazz lexicon into his own luxurious style. ...

His voice is easy to listen to, and could become a favorite for anyone looking for a gratifying experience within the male vocal arena. Also, his knowledge of jazz is quite clearly expansive."
—Scott Gotschall, JAZZ IMPROV Magazine


On 4/15: "I can honestly say your CD blew me away. I did not know what to expect. ... But right from the first song, title cut, I knew I had a winner in my hands. I love your voice and while one has to always compare voices to other known singers, you have your own sound. I guess singers like Eckstine, Williams and Prysock have something in common with you, and that is clear diction and the ability to blend well with the band and make your vocal another 'instrument.' Lots of great interplay with Bob Kindred [tenor saxophone], whom I had never heard of, but is a fine sax player. I am very familiar with Randy Sandke [trumpet]. I will give it plenty of air time."

On 4/27: "Isn't E.J.'s CD mighty fine! I didn't know he was so tall, 6'4" or 6'5"—that is where he gets that wonderful baritone voice. I highly recommend this CD! Randy Sandke, on trumpet, is great but the whole band smokes. I had never heard of Bob Kindred, the tenor sax player, but, man, he can play that '40s Ben Webster-style horn. After repeated listens, I put this CD in the 'must have' category. It is one of those CDs that always puts you in a good mood."

On 5/18: "I had a call the other night when I played 'Since I Met You Baby,' from a woman who said he sounded a little like Elvis. I guess she was talking about the sexy way he sings on this song."
—Craig Turner, 52nd St. Jazz, WPNE, Green Bay, WI


"Thanks. I really enjoy it for my shows. Great standards and your originals are nice too."
—Joe Kelley, WVOF, New London, CT


On 4/27: "I am listening to your CD now, and enjoying it. I revel in the experience of hearing new people and what they're up to—especially male pop / jazz singers."

On 5/19: "I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as we did. It was fun and relaxing. I had a great time. Keep me posted as to your gigs, etc. I would love to catch you some time."
—John Hammel, WNTI, Hackettstown, NJ


"Your CD sounds superb..."
—Randy Sandke, Trumpet (Dick Hyman, Benny Goodman, Ken Peplowski, Mel Torme)


On 5/10: "I am jazz journalist and jazz producer on the Lithuanian State Radio where we broadcast jazz music on three radio programs ... It is really surprisingly wonderful record. Very melodic, relaxed music with excellent musicians."

On 6/28: "Indeed, I already played some tunes from your CD and plan to play more later. The songs played are 'While the City Sleeps,' 'Tenderly' and '(We're) Strangers Now.' The reaction of listeners was very positive, they mentioned your unique voice and melodism. Thank you again for your brilliant CD and songs you sing."
—Remigijus Leipus, Lithuanian Radio-1 jazz programme (LR-1)


"Right now I'm enjoying your beautiful and swinging album. And I'll for sure include it in my radio report. I also played with Bob Kindred—at jam sessions in Oslo! (I'm a trombone player also.)"
—Erling Wicklund, Norwegian Jazz Radio, NRK—Norsk Rikskringkasting