The supple, nurturing hands and voice of pianist/vocalist Andy Bey generally dispenses most music in two flavors, either a ballad or a blues. This live recording during Bey's first headline appearance at the world famous jazz hotspot Birdland continues his series of albums with producer Herb Jordan, who like most listeners, remains amazed at Bey's subtle musicianship: "He approaches chord changes and rhythm in a way that many others just do not. He finds harmonic subtleties that escape many singers."
Bey commands a trio with bassist Peter Washington and either drummer Vito Lesczak or Kenny Washington, and in this setting begs for comparison with Nat King Cole, another highly individualized jazz pianist more widely known as a singer. Shaded in dark piano chords, Bey's voice in this opening, title track submerges you neck deep in the reflective spirit of this entire setit jives sometimes, it hurts sometimes, but it's always beautiful. You won't find another artist whose music is more perfectly suited for a rainy day.
Necessarily sets a slow, smoldering tone but it's not all moody Bey brooding. "All the Things You Are" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" move their tempos uptown, and his unique falsetto in "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" coolly and elegantly glides above and between the notes of the melody, demonstrating how Bey brushstrokes his piano and voice together to illuminate a tune. His piano in the completely instrumental "If I Should Lose You" bounces through the intersection of Horace Silver's lusty Latin soul and Cecil Taylor's heady abstractions.
But the finale is the killer. Bey's hesitant, thoughtful phrasing and restless, plaintive voice blossom throughout "Someone to Watch Over Me" into palpable longing and loss. It just hurts so good. Though he dedicates this take to Sarah Vaughan (specifically her version from The Gershwin Songbook), I would go so far as to say that Bey's version of "Someone to Watch Over Me" surpasses not only hers but all others, and is the definitive.
Personnel: Andy Bey: vocals, piano; Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums; Vito Lesczak: drums.