The hour is late and the lights are low for the last set at the Zanzibar Lounge and you're there to take in the Williams/Roberti/White Trio. This studio session from 2002 may well have approximated such an event. The trio consists of a female vocalist with guitar and bass living in the vicinity of Bozeman, Montana. M.J. Williams also plays trombone but is strictly a singer in this setting with Kelly Roberti on bass and Ben White, a former classical guitarist.
Most of this album consists of a series of late-night ballads smokily performed by the group. They open with Frank Loesser's "I've Never Been in Love Before," from Guys and Dolls, and then the early 1950s ballad "The Nearness of You." Williams uses a fine sense of vocal jazz shading and texture while still adhering to the beautiful melody lines. Benny Carter's "Only Trust Your Heart," almost always done up as in bossa nova tempo, is here slowed down to an eleven minute love song and "Bye-Bye Blackbird" is, likewise, taken down for a slow ride through the countryside with a scatted ending. The standard "Alone Together" receives a similar treatment.
At this point, I would have accepted, positively, the ambiance generated by these cool, noirish ballads. However the final three tracks offered some surprises. "Driving at Dawn" and "Driving at Night" are vocalese offerings that offer a slight increase in tempo and afford Williams some edgier vocal opportunities. John Coltrane's "Equinox" begins and ends with up some lyrics followed by Williams vocalese. I would have been interested in learning who penned the lyrics, but alas, no writer credits are listed.
In this setting, a lot of pressure is placed on the guitar and bass for support of the vocals, and White and Roberti come across admirably. White does not employ rhythm guitar techniques here. Its largely sympatico plucking to enhance the melody of each tune while Roberti delivers a needed pulse in his work and also gets some effective solos in notably on "Equinox." Nice work, guys!
Track Listing: I've Never Been in Love Before, The Nearness of You, Only Trust Your Heart, Bye-Bye Blackbird, Alone Together, Driving at Dawn, Equinox, Driving at Night.
Personnel: M.J. Williams, vocals; Kelly Roberti, bass; Ben White, guitar.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.