New York Daily News

Abrams puts his quirks to work


‘American Idol” contestant­s don’t come odder than Casey Abrams. On season 10, he broke the mold in just about every way he could — in how he acted, how he sang, even how he looked.

Visually, Abrams suggested Seth Rogen, if he’d never gotten the makeover or lost the weight. Vocally, he leaned toward jazz, hardly the most popular genre in this cynical world. More, Abrams’ able musiciansh­ip sometimes upstaged his voice, not exactly an advantage in a singing competitio­n.

But his most notable draw, and stumbling block, came in the area of character. Abrams presented himself as the classic goof, a guy whose comedy often came at his own expense, undercutti­ng his genuine power and, at times, making him look like a novelty: a human whoopee cushion.

Raw talent and sheer likability took him far (to the top six, in fact). But he couldn’t possibly win — even in a contest that greatly favors white guys who can at least play something. It did, however, get him a recording contract, and that’s a good thing.

On his self-titled debut, Abrams takes advantage of the most winning qualities he displayed on the show. His vocals sound less fettered and more fluid than ever — enough to make even his busiest scats seem not skittish but pretty. It’s a style as supple in tone as it is agile in cadence. Matched to his high, boyish pitch, it suggests someone utterly free of guile or defensiven­ess.

The material Abrams cowrote (often with just one collaborat­or at a time) follows suit, hitching bright folk-pop to breezy pop-jazz. Think: Early Jason Mraz meets “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”-style Bobby McFerrin. The opening song, “Simple Life,” could be “Don’t Worry’s” long-lost son. While Abrams whistles in only one song (“A Boy Can Dream”), all the performanc­es feel that giddy.

The jazzier songs have more individual­ity than the pop ones. Better, they allow Abrams to show off his double-bassplayin­g chops, especially in “Dry Spell,” where he really swings under a rollicking piano solo from the equally impish Jamie Cullum.

While many songs mean to communicat­e romantic pining, Abrams’ delivery has such ease and sweetness, it erases any sadness. He sings entirely in winks and blushes, playing the bashful best friend who never gets the girl but always gets the joke. No wonder his performanc­es have little depth and less sex. Luckily for him, what he lacks in those qualities he makes up for in charm.

 ??  ?? Casey Abrams’ sound is sweet and sunny, with more
than a hint of jazz.
Casey Abrams’ sound is sweet and sunny, with more than a hint of jazz.
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