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by Donald Elfman
This recording belongs alongside the famous Reprise recording of Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio (Warner Bros., 1963)--now Abdullah Ibrahim. It comes from the same period and introduced the world to Ibrahim's then girlfriend, Beattie Benjamin (now Sathima Bea Benjamin). Actually, Benjamin heard Ellington in Zurich and convinced him to come hear Brand perform. Ellington also insisted that Benjamin sing for him, and the subsequent recordings were thought to be lost until relatively recently. Benjamin is ...read more
by AAJ Staff
To celebrate her recent septuagenarian status, vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin selected twelve tracks spanning eight releases for inclusion on SongSpirit, from her first early-'60s sessions to her latest disc (Musical Echoes, 2002), in essence releasing a greatest hits compilation--though who in jazz makes hit records?! Benjamin wisely selects an array of gems, particularly her standout original South African roots numbers Africa and Children of Soweto. Both are features for two close musical partners: bassist Buster Williams--whose inimitable ...read more
by Andrew Rowan
Legions of jazz singers are out there these days with good chops and solid work. What is often missing, however, is that individual spark, those personal qualities that set the singer apart from the rest. Sathima Bea Benjamin possesses that spark, with a unique, aching quality in her voice that meshes well with the spirituality that informs her song readings. She can seamlessly move from mournful expression to joyous near exultation, and the SongSpirit compendium brims with these gifts.
This ...read more
by Michael P. Gladstone
Having had the pleasure of hearing the most recent of Sathima Bea Benjamin's albums, Musical Echoes, some six months ago, I'm hesitant to add any more superlatives now that this retrospective look at the career of one of our finest jazz vocalists is about to be released. SongSpirit covers recordings made from 1963-2002. This collection of recordings shows Benjamin's affinity for pianists and includes the participation of some of the best: including Duke Ellington, Kenny Barron, Larry Willis and, of ...read more
by Jim Santella
A best of compilation of Sathima Bea Benjamin's work between 1963 and 2002, SongSpirit lets emotions soar through the poignant themes that she's chosen to represent over the years. Whether she's interpreting jazz standards or telling personal stories about her undying dedication to her homeland, Benjamin always gives it a hundred percent. The fact that she prefers to work with various jazz piano trios from the higher echelons means that we get nothing but the best.
The previously ...read more
by Michael P. Gladstone
Musical Echoes marks Sathima Bea Benjamin's return to recording after Cape Town Love (1999). This album was recorded in her hometown, Cape Town, and reflects a certain sense of return for the vocalist. My own association with her music goes back to 1979 and her second album, Sathima Sings Ellington, the first release on her own Ekapa label. Over the years, I've continued to be impressed with her unique voice and consistency. Upon hearing this 2006 update, I have to ...read more
by Jim Santella
Sathima Bea Benjamin recorded this program of jazz standards in February 2002 when she returned to Cape Town to reconnect. The bassist and drummer working with her are from South Africa. The music, however, is universal.
Benjamin uses her veteran ears to experiment with pitch, and her accompanists follow suit. Bassist Basil Moses slides gently through Caravan, for example, bringing its exotic sheen out into the daylight. Pianist Stephen Scott provides dense harmony, drummer Lulu Gontsana adds unique ...read more