I met vocalist Karrin Allyson for this B&A just before her sold-out appearance at the Kennedy Center. Like an experienced road warrior, she arrived in town without a moment to spare, gave herself a minute to put her bags in her room, and then joined me for this in-depth listening session. She was relieved that she didn’t have to give stars for each record.
1. Maxine Sullivan
“Massachusetts” (from A Tribute To Andy Razaf, DCC Jazz). Recorded in 1956. Sullivan, vocals; Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Buster Bailey, clarinet; Jerome Richardson, saxophone; Dick Hyman, piano; Milt Hinton, bass; Osie Johnson, drums.
BEFORE: Well, I guess it’s Ella, but it sure didn’t sound like her at first. [listens more] No, I don’t know this voice. It sounds like the 1940s. It’s delightful. She’s great-her time, her personality. I mean she swings like crazy. Whoever she is I love her. Wonderful swinging band behind her. I’m stumped. Never heard the tune, either. She has a little of Ella’s sound to her. Cool.
AFTER: Yeah, this is a singer I need to know more about. A lot of folks that I admire love her too. She sounds very classic to me. Like if anyone asked what a jazz singer sounds like, I’d put her on. It’s so swinging and her pitch is great.
I was scheduled to do a Before & After piece for JazzTimes with the Chicago pianist, vocalist and songwriter Patricia Barber at the Portland Jazz Festival in Feb. of 2009. At the last minute, she told me that she wanted to save her voice for her performance and asked if she could give her responses to the recordings on her laptop instead of speaking. We tried but it didn’t quite work for the magazine, so this piece never ran. As with her music, Barber’s responses are clever, unguarded and insightful. She had recently released her Cole Porter record, which is one reason I sprinkled some Porter songs throughout.
1. Shirley Horn
“You Won’t Forget Me” (from You Won’t Forget Me, Verve). Horn, vocal; Miles Davis, trumpet; Charles Ables, bass; Steve Williams, drums. Recorded in 1990.
Before: It sounds like Miles,…it IS Miles but with Shirley Horn. I think they did a session together. It’s beautiful . The drum stick on the snare sounds like maybe a producer’s decision. Who’s the drummer? Who produced this CD?
After: Shirley Horn is one of my biggest influences so I know her voice well. I’ve also traded sets with her at the North Seat Jazz Festival many, many times and I would go out into the audience to listen. I love her economy of phrasing, her confidence. Its a piano player’s confidence…..the singer-pianists don’t sing too much.