Veteran Bay Area singer Frank Jackson works with a stellar quartet on New York After Dark
to interpret classic pages from the Great American Songbook. Recorded in November 2003, the session represents one of James Williams' final performances. Together, Jackson, Williams and crew fuse a veteran's allure with unique interpretations.
Singer Jackson delivers his message with a clarion tone. At 78, he remembers San Francisco's emerging bebop scene. As house pianist for Jimbo's Bop City, he got to know most of modern jazz's pioneers as soon as they hit town.
"Yardbird Suite" brings out Jackson's vocal specialty. Scat singing with a confident charm, he interprets the classic bebop piece naturally. Solos by Ron Carter and Kenny Washington give the arrangement a special ingredient as Jackson jams energetically. Williams supports with a lyrical touch. His effect on ballads such as "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" is one of romantic delight. Together, pianist and singer bare the emotions that this classic song affords.
Jackson's duet with bassist Carter on "Summertime" stands out as the album's high point. The song's original aura is taken to heart as both artists interpret with heartfelt passion. Several of the album's other classic pieces prove uneven as Jackson rehashes memories of lyrics that have stood the test of time. When presented straightforwardly, these pages from the Great American Songbook tend to go stale. Nevertheless, the singer and his stellar crew have given us a substantial look at some of our favorite songs. Like old friends, these songs leave an imprint that we'll not soon forget.
Personnel: Frank Jackson- vocals; James Williams- piano, organ; Ron Carter- bass; Kenny Washington- drums; Billy Pierce- soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone.