Judy Bady: Blackbird (2003)
A generation ago, there were widespread lamentations that jazz singing was dying. Even legends like Betty Carter and Carmen McRae concurred. However sparse the field may have been then, it has rebounded today. In this current bumper crop of singers, how does one stand out?
Enter Judy Bady, who applies her smoky alto to an eclectic repertoire with varied results. Mixing Monk with Ellington and other standards, as well as the offbeat, she occasionally makes an individual mark, as in "Bye, Bye Blackbird", where she is sure footed and swinging. A talented singer, Bady's approach, though earnest, fails to present a well-defined persona.
Her strong pipes, well displayed on "You Don't Know What Love Is", eventually overpower this ballad of unrequited love. Her more restrained approach to "Monkery's the Blues" ("Blue Monk" with Abbey Lincoln's lyric added) is underminded by the pedestrian solo piano accompaniment. "Caravan" shifts the session from Monk to Ellington (with Juan Tizol and Irving Mills) with disappointing results: a grating, wordless opening passage precedes a scattershot improvisation.
Although her beautiful instrument at first caresses "Dindi", Bady ends up skating over the emotional and harmonic challenges of this lovely song and her technical spectacle on Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You" bypasses the song's inherent sensuousness.
The offbeat material seems to suit her better: the soulful vocal on "Battle Hymn of the Republic" overcomes the pianist's synthetic, pseudo-gospel accompaniment. (Jazz pianists who are not personally conversant with gospel piano should listen to Mildred Falls accompany Mahalia Jackson.) There are, however, real flashes of commitment on "If One Could Only See", a simple, straightforward song where the gospel tint works this time out.
Perhaps live, with a more sympathetic and inspiring rhythm section, Judy Bady might soar. She has the voice and the chops to do just that.
Track Listing: Bye, Bye Blackbird; Monkery's the Blues; On the Sunny Side of the Street; You Don't Know What Love Is; Caravan; Battle Hymn of the Republic; If One Could Only See; The Nearness of You; Dindi; That's All; Je Me Souvien (I Remember)
Personnel: Misha Piatigorsky, piano; Steve Doyle, bass; Greg Searvance, drums