Stripped of its typical grandiosity, Paul Anka’s “I’m Not Anyone” becomes a far more emotionally complex tribute to the late Sammy Davis Jr., in the hands of jazz vocalist Eric Van Aro.
The tune opens with an absorbing piano signature, courtesy of Fabio Gianni, before Van Aro enters to offer a confidential, quietly conveyed vocal: This is a song about empowerment, about believing – above all else – in yourself, and as with many such sentiments it builds from something barely said to something boasted about with sweeping gestures.
By its midpoint, “I’m Not Anyone” – set for release on September 14, 2012, via Eraki – has become a tandem statement of purpose, as Van Aro sings with a robust pride while Gianni begins to approach the piano with a brusque aggression. But just then, as the song hits an emotional apex – and at precisely the moment that earlier strings-laden versions by the likes of Davis and Shirley Bassey began to swoon – Van Aro instead dials everything down with pinpoint accuracy.
He boasts: “I’ll say it loud, I am proud!,” but then seems to completely let go, as if he’s finally gotten something enormous off his chest. “I am free,” Van Aro sings, softly again, “I am free.” Gianni mirrors that newfound sense of release, playing a ruminative, yet deeply optimistic figure on the piano as the track begins to fade.
Still a powerful anthem to self-determination, “I’m Not Anyone” – as the song is torn down to its piano-and-singer foundations – takes on deeper new shades of meaning. You hear things you never heard in an age-old composition, and that’s the mark of a great cover.
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