Room For One More
The really great jazz vocalists share something in common with their renowned instrumental counterparts. That is, they possess a truly identifiable sound and approach that cannot be mistaken for another. For just two examples, any jazz fan worth their weight could identify Frank Sinatra or Dinah Washington in a mere few notes. Truth is though, there were many vocal artists in the '50s and '60s that never obtained star status but certainly qualified as being individualists with something important to say.
When Norman Granz started recording jazz on his Clef label in the mid '40s; it would be such vociferous jazzmen as Illinois Jacquet, Gene Krupa, and Lionel Hampton that would become his source of pleasure. Only after the Verve imprimatur debuted in 1956 did Granz add some vocal talent to the roster in the guise of the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. During the '60s when Creed Taylor would take the helm of artist management, an even more impressive line-up of vocal talent would be added to the catalog. Anita O'Day, Astrud Gilberto, Susan Rafey, Jackie & Roy, Jacy Parker, Pat Thomas, and Irene Reid are just a few of the names that come from this era.
In the spotlight for our purposes this time around is the outstanding Irene Reid, still active and recording these days. Back in 1965, Reid was just in the process of making a name for herself and had appeared on two tracks of Lalo Schifrin's Once a Thief album. Her own Verve debut, Room For One More puts her in front of a large ensemble arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson and the results are uniformly excellent. Typical for the time, the musicians assembled for the festivities are nothing short of being the pick of the litter- Charlie Mariano, Jerome Richardson, Phil Woods, Jerry Dodgion, Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green, and J.J. Johnson. Tasteful and supportive, the rhythm section includes Kenny Burrell, Bob Cranshaw, Roger Kellaway, and Grady Tate.
Two Buddy Johnson classics are featured among a memorable program. Both "Save Your Love For Me" and "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone" find Reid belting out an emotionally charged message with perfect intonation and just the right touch of reverb provided by the eminent Rudy Van Gelder. Nelson's resonant charts never get in the way, but create the perfect environment for Reid to strut her stuff. "Who Can I Turn To" gets a definitive performance as Reid flaunts her way with a ballad, the final cadenza displaying her great range and a penchant for creating those goose bumps. On a lighter note, the theme from "Bewitched" takes a bow with lyrics and a delectable arrangement that swings merrily.
A perfect candidate for reissue under the huge banner of the Verve Music Group, Room For One More speaks strongly for the merits of Reid and is a lost item in terms of Oliver Nelson's catalog as an arranger.