The 11-track CD is a mix of original compositions, reworked jazz numbers, and reinvented rock tunes. The wide-ranging material is tied together by Lellis’ easy, confident singing. He’s part old-style crooner and part new progressive. He has a knack for making everything he sings sound romantic and for finding fresh arrangements.
Lellis’ previous album, Southern Exposure, a collection of Brazilian and jazz music, earned a spot on a couple of "best of" lists in 2004. The Brazilian influence that’s been a significant part on his prior CDs can be heard on his latest effort as well.
The strength of Avenue of the Americas is Lellis’ compositions. "A Choice of Fates" hits a light, breezy groove that Lellis does best. He also delivers a nice ballad with "River of Light," which was written with Gary Fisher.
The album opens with Pat Metheny’s "For Better Days Ahead," which has new lyrics by Lellis. Its Latin flavor and catchy rhythms make it a standout.
The one misfire on the CD is Lellis’ joining of two familiar songs, Ashford and Simpson’s "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" and U2’s "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For." These are two great individual songs, and they are not enhanced by being combined into one.
Lellis also performs "Norwegian Wood," dropping in lines from other Beatles songs into the number. It’s hard to improve on the original, but give him credit for trying something new.
Overall, this is a satisfying effort that features fine, smooth singing and clever arrangements.