By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
A more earthbound JordanBey's industrious producer, Herbhas worked to remedy that situation. Since 1996, Bey has recorded four CDs showcasing his mixture of virility, tenderness, and spiritual heft. The best of the lot is the newest: American Song, where he rises to lofty results on 10 familiar standards.
Jazz's sacred texts are for the most part, well, sacred. Yet Bey's take on Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" stands up alongside Johnny Hartman's performance on the classic 1963 "My One and Only Love" he recorded with John Coltrane. Here Bey's phrasing anticipates Frank Wess's tenor sax solo; a bit earlier, he interlocks perfectly with Dwight Andrews's bass clarinet countermelody. The latter element seems an impossible fit, yet it achieves a logical beautyone of several stirring details provided by Geri Allen, the album's chief arranger as well as the pianist on two tracks.
A warm, spacious sound prevails. Horns add oddly glowing harmonies; piano and guitar trade spare, complex chords. But Bey's rich baritone is the fulcrum throughout. The care with which he calibrates the strength of his breath enables him to belt bluesy riffs with authority, to enlarge the finest nuance, and to trace melismas with unwavering pitch and clarity. Combined with the bolero rhythm and upbeat accents employed here, the odd intervals of Lionel Hampton's "Midnight Sun" could freeze any singer. But Bey's vocal flows, carrying Johnny Mercer's wordplay toward fresh implication. When Bey moves from a whisper to what he calls his "power voice" on "Caravan," his voice explodes like Dizzy Gillespie's horn. Scatting softly at the end of "Lush Life," he seems adrift in the loneliness he's just described. "Speak Low" begins with finger snaps and deep sighs. From there, Bey's offanother well-timed jump into a resilient cushion of air, raising the game.
Andy Bey plays Le Jazz Au Bar March 25, 26, and 28.