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Aaron Neville Makes Time for Standards

Nature Boy: The Standards Album, Aaron Neville's latest CD.
Nature Boy: The Standards Album, Aaron Neville's latest CD.

Aaron Neville's latest album, a set of jazz standards, may seem like a new direction for the singer from New Orleans. After all, he and the Neville Brothers band he's part of are known for traveling the musical paths of pop, blues, soul and gospel. But Neville has found room in his performances for songs like "Summertime," "Cry Me a River" and "The Shadow of Your Smile" over the years.

On his new CD, Nature Boy, Neville just happens to collect these songs all in one place. Neville, and his brother Charles, who plays tenor saxophone on the album's "Since I Fell for You," have been talking about a project like this one for years, Aaron Neville says. "We just had to wait for the right time," he tells NPR's Liane Hansen, on Weekend Edition Sunday.

The CD is named after the Nat King Cole hit that was Aaron Neville's father's favorite song. Neville sings "Nature Boy" as a tribute to his dad.

Neville accompanied Linda Ronstadt on the 1989 hit "Don't Know Much." They reunite on Nature Boy, with "The Very Thought of You." He calls the decision to have Ronstadt accompany him again "a no-brainer."

"It's like a marriage. She said that we sang in another life before and that our voices were married."

With all the different musical styles he's taken on, Hansen asks Neville what's next — opera, perhaps?

"I don't think I'll mess with opera," he says with a laugh. "But I still have some more gospel to do, some more jazz standards I want to do. I'm planning on being around another 100 years, so I'm going to sing. We're out with the Neville Brothers right now, so we've got to do some funk stuff too."

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Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.