ESSENTIAL "I Wish I Knew"
American standards seem to have become a rest home for aging rockers, and while it might appear that Boz Scaggs has taken up residence - this is his second straight album in the form, following 2003's "But Beautiful" - the singer has suggested in recent interviews that his stay will not be permanent. While he's here, though, he seems to be making the most of it: "But Beautiful" topped the jazz charts, and with his new release he again proves himself an able and careful interpreter of this music while exhibiting a voice that has retained its distinctive velvety rasp even as its timbre has naturally thickened with time. Scaggs renders material from the likes of Rodgers and Hart ("She Was Too Good to Me"), Hoagy Carmichael ("Skylark"), and Duke Ellington ("Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me"), as a series of intimate, moody ballads, with occasional diversions into mid-tempo swing ("Senza Fine") and bossa beat ("Dindi"). His deft, small-combo backing is changed up a bit this time to fine effect, with vibes and clarinet woven in among the sax and piano and, here and there, touches of strings. "Speak Low" is an elegant and striking return visit. (Out tomorrow) - STUART MUNRO