443

Peggy Lee: Black Coffee

David Rickert By

Sign in to view read count
"A Woman Alone With the Blues" features sparse piano, whispering drums, and a mournful trumpet lurking in the background. But it's the vocals that really push it over the edge. Peggy Lee doesn't sing this song; she crawls into it and huddles in the dark spaces, as she does on virtually all of the songs on 1956's Black Coffee.

Lee got her start with Benny Goodman churning out hits like "Why Don't You Do Right." She used her superior vocal ability to strike out on her own like many of the big band singers of the time, who quickly emerged as the real attraction. But nobody was really prepared for Black Coffee, a statement that easily stands up next to the best work of Ella, Sarah, and Billie.

The title song is the typical blue flame ballad that one always associates with smoky jazz clubs and perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the album. The original ten-inch release had Lee backed by a quartet on a handful of torch songs and blues. Lee jumps into the river that goes all the way back to Ethel Waters, showing an ability to live through the lyrics normally associated with Billie Holiday. Through the tales of love lost, only "I've Got You Under My Skin" breaks through the clouds, but whoever this fellow may be she's singing about, he didn't last for long.

Four tracks pad out the original release to plump it up to a full length LP. A harp, guitar, and vibes provide a gossamer texture, used to good effect on the virtually tempoless "You're My Thrill" and the music box introduction to "There's A Small Hotel." Like any good album, the strength is in the details, and the group has fashioned clever twists to familiar songs that are strung together as an album that deserves to be heard as a complete statement.

"I'd rather be lonely than happy with somebody else," Lee sings. The melancholy ballads here may make one believe otherwise. Black Coffee proves that thoughtful song selection, intelligent accompaniment, and brilliant singing can combine to create a work of art. Although known more for her pop efforts, Lee has created one of the best examples of jazz singing ever recorded.


Track Listing: 1. Black Coffee 2. I've Got You Under My Skin 3. Easy Living 4. My Heart Belongs To Daddy 5. It Ain't Necessarily So 6. Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You? 7. A Woman Alone With the Blues 8. I Didn't Know What Time It Was 9. When The World Was Young 10. Love Me Or Leave Me 11. You're My Thrill 12. There's A Small Hotel.

Personnel: Peggy Lee - vocals; with (on 1-4 and 7-10) Pete Condoli - trumpet; Jimmy Rowles - piano; Max Wayne - bass; Ed Shaugnessy - drums; (on 5, 6, 11, and 12) Stella Castellucci - harp; Lou Levy - piano; Bill Pittman - guitar; Buddy Clark - bass; Larry Bunker - drums, vibraphone, percussion.

Title: Black Coffee | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Verve Music Group


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Spirits" CD/LP/Track Review Spirits
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 2, 2017
Read "Roots Of Unity" CD/LP/Track Review Roots Of Unity
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Recorded Live in Lafayette" CD/LP/Track Review Recorded Live in Lafayette
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "The Duke Box 2" CD/LP/Track Review The Duke Box 2
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 14, 2016
Read "Umbra" CD/LP/Track Review Umbra
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Bekkenjordet" CD/LP/Track Review Bekkenjordet
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 15, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.