Robert McCarther is a singer/songwriter whose smooth vocals and ability to “swing” is bound to set anybody’s stage on fire. A native of Detroit, Robert has performed in clubs and private venues throughout Michigan, Florida, Louisiana, Canada and Illinois. This man is no newcomer to the stage. His credits include leading roles in Ron Milner’s off Broadway acapella musical. “Seasons Reasons”, Dee Dee McNeil’s 1999 musical play “After Hours: Great Music”, a jazz play, also written by Dee Dee McNeil, and directed by Edward G Smith. “Swinging with the Spirits”, (a tribute to the historic jazz voice of Ed Love) and the 2003 Odellic group production, “Trouble In Paradise Valley”.
Robert’s father, Louis Barnett was a popular saxophonist. For a time, Robert toured as lead vocalist with his father’s sextet throughout Michigan and in Canada. He was also part of the well-respected vocalese group, “The Broadnax Voices”, who sang much of the original music of founder/songwriter Morris Broadnax.
Robert is an active member of his church, choir and praise team and a harmonic studio background vocalist. He has worked with Sonny Stitt and has been a featured vocalist with such greats as Marcus Belgrave, Ken Cox, Teddy Harris, Dwight Adams, Donald Walden, Buddy Budson, Marion Hayden, Cliff Monear and a host of other well-known musicians. He also performs as a solo act vocalizing in many Michigan clubs. Robert’s most recent appearances include the Steinway Gallery, Bakers Keyboard Lounge, Jazz in Paradise (A Private annual event).
After many years of selfless sacrifice for his family and a victorious fight with stage 4 cancer, Robert McCarther has released his 2nd highly anticipated, newly released CD “Stranger In Town.”
Here is more evidence that Detroit is one of America’s great jazz cities – and it’s not just a historical fact – it’s living proof in vocalist Robert McCarther. McCarther’s band including Kamau Kenyatta, Vincent Bowens, Curtis Taylor, Dwight Adams, Alex Rogowski, Marion Hayden and Thaddeus Dixon are more confirmation of Detroit’s living and lively jazz power. McCarther has integrated painful and joyous life lessons into his music, his voice and most of all, his phrasing. If you are looking for a singer to take the place of Leon Thomas or Bill Henderson for your programming, look to Detroit’s Robert McCarther. And, if you’re looking for a CD with well-balanced and well-played acoustic arrangements, “Stranger In Town” is for you, your station and your listeners.
Linda Yohn, WEMU 89.1
Robert McCarther brings a fresh perspective to the jazz scene with velvet, smooth, baritone vocals and his astute ability to ‘Swing’. Accompanied by some of the best Motown jazz musicians, his second solo CD tackles compositions by Thelonius Monk to Bill Withers and Paul Williams. When I listen to the musical interpretations of Robert McCarther, I feel great joy. Here is a vocalist who consistently makes you pay attention to the lyrics. For example, on “Hi Fly,“ tastefully recorded in three-quarter waltz time, I was very familiar with this song’s melody, yet somehow I felt I was hearing the words for the very first time. The title tune, “Stranger In Town” sets the tone for McCarther’s entire recording. It features the sensational trumpet work of Curtis Taylor with complimentary horn arrangements by Kamau Kenyatta. This song exudes energy, while setting the tone for an album of straight-ahead jazz. Kamau Kenyatta also produced these sessions and is probably best known for his work with Gregory Porter’s Grammy Award winning albums. He’s also pianist on these sessions.
McCarther is no newcomer to jazz. His dad, Louie Barnett, played saxophone with the Maurice King big band. As a young man, Robert often went on ‘the road’ and sang with that historic band. McCarther was also a strong contributor to the “Broadnax Voices”, a Detroit jazz choral group that was put together by composer/arranger and Motown writer, Morris Broadnax. The group was born upon McCarther’s insistence. Robert explained, “I was over Aretha’s (Franklin) house one day and Nax (Morris Broadnax nickname) came by and (as usual) I started singing his tunes. I suggested he start a vocal group that just sang his many, jazzy compositions. Eventually, he did it. We were very popular, working in and around Detroit for several years.”
During McCarther’s six year tenure with “The Broadnax Voices,” McCarther sang harmonics in the background, as well as front-lining for the group as a solo artist. In fact, he and Broadnax have collaborated on one of these album songs as co-writers titled, “Ya’ll”, a swinging little tune about self-realization. Broadnax also contributed two more tunes to this recording project, including the title tune, co-written with myself and his self-penned, “Lately.” You will find Robert McCarther’s choice of repertoire both unique and introspective. He seems to be drawn to songs that not only have a strong melodic line, but also offer the listener prose that tickle our minds and stories of life that mirror our own. Here is a jazz vocalist who puts love and sincerity into every word he sings, while keeping the time like a master percussionist and inspiring us with his straight-ahead, musical truth.
Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist