Ada Bird Wolfe
's 2018 debut CD, Birdie
(Self Produced), was one of the best recordings released that year
. For Wolfe, music has been a lifetime love, even while in school and after, working in business, and writing full time. Wolfe has sojourned from the East to the West Coast, where she finally landed, set down roots and, in 2010, began devoting herself to singing and music full time.
It was there she began to work with pianist and arranger alchemist Jamieson Trotter
and the two reached a creative critical mass. Birdie
was notable for Wolfe's vocalese exposition. "All Blues," "Monk's Dream," "'Round Midnight," "Four," and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," were all dispatched with an acute expertise, disguised as "just another day in the studio." Wolfe and Trotter make it sound easy.
But, that is what the best of the best do. The true consummate artist takes the very difficult, making it understandable, enjoyable, and fulfilling all at the same time. On He & Me
this creative pair takes a handful of craggy bop tunes, stirring in some tasteful originals, resulting in an even dozen songs for a solid duo recital. Proving the point on a single composition, Wolfe pens words to Wayne Shorter
's 1965 composition "E.S.P.," resulting in the angular "Mind to Mind," on which Trotter adds staccato punctuation to the singer's telepathic words. The pair drops back 20 years to the heyday of bebop and the Dizzy Gillespie
/ Charlie Parker
thunderbolt "Night in Tunisia." Trotter only approximates the introductory bass line, while Wolfe, in her seasoned and sensual alto voice, singing Frank Paparelli's lyrics, plumbs the song as a ballad rather than a bop firebrand.
"Sweet Nardis" is a Trotter-Wolfe original which recalls in name and harmonic spirit, Miles Davis
' "Nardis." The pair takes the song up-tempo, with a jaunt and strut, commanding the listener's attention. The original "Too Much Stuff" is a perfect Broadway tune gone dark and wrong, suspended somewhere between material possession and mental obsession, captured in a lull of fatigue and attention deficit. Wolfe dips way back in covering Lovie Austin
's 1923 composition "Any Woman's Blues," made famous by Bessie Smith
. The singer dispatches the old blues with an authority similar to that of Marty Elkins
interpreting the same repertoire.
Most provocative is Wolfe and Trotter's pairing of "Blue in Green" and "All Blues" in a mashup making perfect sense. Wolfe's vocals flow with a modal inertia, well supported by Trotter's same accompaniment. The music exists as ravenous particles suspended in the air and time, held together by Wolfe's deeply-hewn alto tone. This performance is impressive. Wolfe (wo)man handles the Beatles' classic "Blackbird," deconstructing it beyond Paul Jost
's progressive version on his Simple Life
(Paul Jost Music, 2019).
Wolfe's single ballad standard performance, "But Beautiful," demonstrates why this is the favorite ballad vehicle for many saxophone players (e.g., Art Pepper
). Her laconic delivery melds warmly with the Johnny Burke lyrics. If Wolfe's organic sensibility on "Any Woman's Blues" is a hard sell, her "Get It Straight (Straight No Chaser) is humid and fecund, delivered with a rat-a-tat-tat machine gun burst brimming with confidence and aplomb. He & Me
proves itself a worthy follow-up to Birdie
. And. to just think, this is only her second recording. What good did we do to deserve this?
Mind to Mind (ESP); Night in Tunisia; Sweet Nardis; You’re
Everything; Logo Ru; Too Much Stuff; Any Woman’s Blues; Blue
in Green/All Blues; Blackbird; But Beautiful; .Get It Straight
(Straight No Chaser); Done With That.