The interpretation of words is an art and Patty Waters turned that art into a singular achievement on her first recording, Sings, originally released in 1965. The songs on that album, now reissued by ESP Disk, took on a plaintive airwrapped in the whisper of her pain and belted out in a scream of anguish. She was as comfortable with a serene rendition of love as she was in the throws of anxiety and tension.
Waters was singing in a New York club when Albert Ayler heard her. There must have been something unique in her approach that piqued the late saxophonist, who introduced her to ESP Disk label head Bernard Stollman. Waters recorded Sings in 1965 and followed it up with College Tour in 1966, the two reissued by ESP Disk as The Complete ESP Disk Recordings in 2006.
Sings was first released on LP and the two sides were as apposite to each other as they could be. On the first, Waters accompanies herself on piano, her voice haunting the melody, teasing it with a wispy air and then wallowing in it. But Waters had an imagination that overrode the mundane. She stretches the words, dips in and out of the melody, injects pathos and draws an intimate circle as she shares her deepest feelings.
"Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair," which occupied the entire second side of the LP, is at once a revelation and an expulsion. It is a catharsis of the pop and jazz styling that filtered through side onea revelation of Waters' imagination that could break into frenzied peaks and squall into a whimper. She gives no indication of what is in store, her reading of the words initially straightforward and simple. Repeated motifs, elongated syllables and a sob float in the eerie shadow of her pain. That hurt is expounded by screams in relentless search for elusive hope.
Waters' career after her ESP releases has been sketchy at best, releasing Love Songs (Jazz Focus Records, 1996), accompanied by pianist Jessica Williams; Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe: Live In San Francisco (DBK Works, 2002); and You Thrill Me: A Musical Odyssey 1962-1979 (Water Records, 2004). But it is Waters' first album that signalled the hope of a rare, new talent, one that time has not fulfilled.
Personnel: Patty Waters: voice, piano (1-7); Burton Greene: piano and
piano harp (8); Steve Tintweiss: bass (8); Tom Price: percussion (8).