Andy Bey: Shades of Bey
On Shades of Bey, his latest Evidence release, Andy Bey's voice smolders and flashes, and burns with a quiet fire. Continuing the intimate atmosphere he so memorably established on the piano/vocal Ballads, Blues, and Bey, he sings two tracks here accompanied just by a guitar: "Like a Lover," which is a vocal adaptation of "O Cantador," and "Drume Negrita," which is "Afro-Cuban Lullaby." On the rest of the tracks he's accompanied by a varying but accomplished set of supporting characters who, throughout all the instrumental shifts, maintain a continuity of mood.
It's a 3 AM mood, quiet and blue and very, very close. Bey doesn't often work by variance of range (although on "The Last Light of the Evening" he makes effective use of his falsetto, in close proximity to phrases in his natural range - he alternates like a reed player). He usually prefers instead to create an intensely intimate atmosphere that glows with passion without slipping into Barry Whitean excess. He can also be exuberant, as on the delightful scatting of "Believin' It," a vocalization of "Half & Half." On that track, as well as on Monk's "Straight, No Chaser" (here "Get It Straight") Bey begins by neatly rapping over the head, and thus strikingly illustrating the continuity between two musical traditions that might at first glance seem worlds apart.
Bey can also play piano, comping sensitively and agilely behind his vocals on "Some Other Time," "Dark Shadows" as well as on the more driving "Midnight Blue," "Believin' It" and Billy Strayhorn's unforgettable "Blood Count" (here rendered as "The Last Light of the Evening." Geri Allen plays on Ellington's "The Starcrossed Lovers" ("Pretty Girl" here) and demonstrates the same keen ear and sensitive adjustment to other musicians that she seems to demonstrate every time out.
Among the instrumentalists, however, the most welcome is Gary Bartz, whose alto is magnificent on "Midnight Blue" and somewhat more restrained but no less precise and enormous on "Dark Shadows" and "The Last Light of the Evening." Bartz and Bey are both true unsung heroes: musicians who have paid their dues for years and never gotten their due. May this fine, intimately crafted disc bring them some of the attention they deserve.