Nancy Harrow cut her first album in 1960 with the Buck Clayton All Stars. Since then she has made just ten albums and this reissue of a 1986 recording originally on a Tono CD is one of them. As further evidence of lack of recognition, she gets just a footnote in Crowther and Pinfold's Jazz Singing>. Given this lady's talent and credentials as a jazz singer, to my mind, the out of hand dismissal by these jazz singing gurus is puzzling.
The good news is that Baldwin Street Music, under the direction of Ted Tono, has been reissuing albums of such fine singers as Mavis Rivers, Ann Richards and Kay Starr and now has seen fit to include Harrow's You're Nearer in the reissue program. In addition to the songs on the original 1986 recording, four alternate takes have been added providing listeners with over an hour of music.
Harrow comes from the same school of singers as Jeri Southern, Lee Wiley, Peggy Lee, Jeri Southern, Helen Merrill, and Blossom Dearie. Each of them seem to have a built in intimacy to their voice which gives their performances a familiarity other singers often have difficulty achieving. This intimacy provides a special texture to their handling of the lyrics which wraps the listeners in the web they weave with their vocal interpretations, and a very pleasant trap it is. To be effective, however, the arrangements have to center on the voice, not on the instrumentation. And this is the case here, with Sir Roland Hanna's arrangements attuned to Harrow's vocal stylings. It also helps to be backed by outstanding and sympathetic players. The already mentioned Hanna is on piano, with Ray Drummond's bass and Terri Lyne Carrington's drums filling out the rhythm section. Together they provide world class support to Harrow. Adding Bob Brookmeyer's velvet sounding valve trombone to the set was a stroke of genius. He and Harrow hit it off very well musically. On "Hallelujah I Love Him So" Harrow speaks the lyrics for a chorus engaging in a conversation with Brookmeyer's trombone, with Carrington's accented drums and Hanna's piano getting in a word or two. With the voice and trombone creating a sensuous "sending shivers down your spine" emotion, "Mean to Me" is one of the album's highlights. The blues are visited "I Don't Know you Anymore", with Hanna's piano tinkling in the background followed by Brookmeyer's trombone bursting upon the scene during the second chorus. But for me, the album's paramount performance is of Hoagy Carmichael's poignant "I Get Along without You Very Well". Harrow's rendition is heartfelt and personal without being cloying and maudlin. The snippets of conversation and laughing between alternate takes shows that the players are having a good time at this session.
Crowther and Pinfold and Friedwald's inexplicable and unfortunate oversight notwithstanding, Ms Harrow is an excellent singer who work rates far greater attention than she or it have received over her long career. This album is highly recommended.
Tracks:You're Nearer; Confessin' the Blues; Hello; Hallelujah, I Love Him So; Don't Go to Strangers; I Used to Love You; Mean to Me; You're Not the only Oyster in the Stew; If I Could Be with You; I Don't Know You Anymore; I Get Along without You Very Well; Don't Go to Strangers (alt. tk.); You're Nearer (alt. tk.); You're Not the Only Oyster in the Stew (alt. tk.); If I Could Be with You (alt. tk.)
PersonnelNancy Harrow -Vocal; Sir Roland Hanna - Piano; Bob Brookmeyer-Valve Trombone; Ray Drummond-Bass; Terri Lyne Carrington-Drums