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Andy Bey: Ain't Necessarily So

Martin Longley By

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Singer Andy Bey is less well known as a pianist, but nowadays he leads his trio from the piano stool, his instrumental wanderlust having an equal capacity to his voice for taking a saunter down the less familiar alleyways. This live album was recorded a decade back at Birdland, in what was effectively Bey's first significant New York residency as a leader. He's joined by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington on most of the numbers, with sticksman Vito Lesczak sitting in on two tracks.

Bey's set is standard-based, unlike his more out-there work in the 1970s, but in a cunningly subversive way, he manages to tinker with even the most familiar material, literally unstitching it until it slides down from the bandstand, where it will then wrap its tender tendrils around both the audience or the armchair listener. Choices that include "All The Things You Are," "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? and the title track don't end up sounding tiresomely routine, but take on a freshness that is now increasingly difficult to maintain.

Bey is blessed with a commanding voice that can easily swoop from a falsetto down to a vibrato-ed thundering, taking his phrasing from gospel, blues and soul, then projecting it as if from a theatrical stage, or even a pulpit. The piano is used as an extension of this technique, underlining, answering or repeating his vocal lines. This produces the unnerving effect of a combined sense of conservative old-fashioned-ness and a bold tearing up of the sacrosanct songbook. There aren't too many parallels to point out. Maybe Mark Murphy, because of his shared sense of time-displacement and his instinctive coolness.

Bey threw an album release party at New York's Blue Note in December, 2007, and his set list still remained very similar. Could this be because he hasn't changed much in a decade, or is he merely attempting to reflect the album's contents? Even some of the between-song banter remained almost exactly the same. His braids are now longer, bunched behind a pirate scarf, Bey draped in a slick suit. His rhythm team has changed—Joe Martin on bass and Lesczak handling the sticks throughout. These two were in tune with Bey's sensitivity, as he scanned these familiar songs from his little notebook or launched off into an involved instrumental that revealed his similarly winding way on the piano keys. If anything, the personal live experience seemed even more conceptual, as Bey exuded the aura of an almost totally unpredictable, abstract artist, yet from within a traditional jazz milieu.

Track Listing: Intro; Ain't Necessarily So; Hey, Love; All the Things You Are; I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart; If I Should Lose You; On Second Thought; Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?; Someone to Watch over Me.

Personnel: Andy Bey: vocals, piano; Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington, Vito Lesczak: drums.

Title: Ain't Necessarily So | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: 12th Street Records


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