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A singer introduced and nurtured by Justin Time Records, Jeri Brown has grown to earn recognition for her distinctive voice as she interprets tunes from a personal perspective. Settling in Montreal, Brown is finally achieving the acclaim she deserves. As a result, she is busy managing Canadian teaching opportunities and worldwide singing engagements.
True to form, Brown pursues the music of Image In The Mirror: The Triptych from a broad overview. She breaks down the overall theme of the CD into single elements, not just of eleven tracks, but also discrete moments of expressions within a phrase or feeling within a wordless flight of singing.
The scope of the CD involves the development of an entire drama involving the fictional Brown's movement from loneliness to romantic involvement. As in any narrative, the relationship involves breaking up in order to introduce the necessary tension. Brown and composer/pianist Milton Sealey choose to end the CD optimistically. Or so it seems as Brown and drummer supreme Grady Tate sing the duo arrangement of "You're My World:" "You're my world of music and laughter and love." But then her epilogue, "The Dragonfly And The Pearl," casts doubt on her hopes, which may have turned out to be false: "I can feel a hot blade of sound, cutting through my dark heart.... Why can't you see the shadow and shade enveloping me? Fear and desire...simply release me in song." The final hidden track sung by Sealey confirms a final sense of failure resulting from 54 minutes of romantic ups and downs. The tentative, renewed hope perhaps arises from inveigling insincerity: "You're wasting good loving on a memory. Come on baby, let me chase away your blues. I can see it in your smile; you're just another lonesome child."
Such a tying together of songs into an overriding theme creates a more difficult project than merely cutting an album of standards, especially since Sealey wrote all of the tunes as part of his concept for the album.
Even so, Brown's use of her adaptive voice in bringing out the emotional content of the songs is impressive in itself. Her four-octave range may remind the listener of similarities with Cleo Laine's extraordinary technique and merging of theatrical and jazz sensibilities. While Brown sings "All At Once" at the comfortable upper end of her range, even as she accents the lyrics with percussive vocal sounds, she surprisingly contrasts Sealey's bright introduction with a slower and lower entry into "Who's Been Loving You?"
"I'll Remember You" is notable for Brown's work solely with Avery Sharpe in a style championed by Shiela Jordan, the voice in unpredictable intervals as the bass plays the role of accompanist and percussionist. Brown and Sharpe team up again with effective results on "My Window" as they perform the tune's twisting lines similar to those of "Freedom Jazz Dance." Eventually, "My Window" evolves into her extended scat improvisation, before Sharpe and Tate stretch out into brief interludes of their own.
Pianist Sealey remains the unspoken voice of Image In The Mirror: The Triptych. The tunes are his, and Brown gives them life and continuity. Sealey's piano work flows in the background of all of the tunes, an obvious presence overseeing the work. And yet, Brown states in the liner notes, "Dear Milton. We had a brief but rich friendship. I will never forget you. I will cherish our musical friendship...for the rest of my life." No explanation is given. Since Image In The Mirror: The Triptych was recorded in May and June, 2000, the real dramatic mystery of the album may be: What happened to Milton Sealey?
Irwin Block of the Montreal Gazette provided the following obituary to answer the question about Milton Sealey posed in the above review:
Saturday, October 28, 2000
Acclaimed jazz pianist and composer Milt Sealey, the last of Montreal's Sealey brothers, died Thursday of an apparent heart attack in New York. He was 73.
Mr. Sealey and his brothers Hugh and George got their start at Rockhead's Paradise Café and played together as the Sealey Brothers Band during the 1940's and 1950's. Mr. Sealey went on to an international career in Europe, the United States and the Caribbean. At one time, he was musical director for the singing group The Platters.
Milton Randolph Sealey, a CPR porter's son, was born in Montreal on June 2, 1928, and grew up in the St. Henri District. His older brothers Hugh and George taught themselves saxophone and clarinet, respectively. Under their tutelage, Milt, almost a decade younger, learned to play the piano.
Mr. Sealey moved to Paris, where, in 1953, he worked with American clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow. In 1957, he came back to Montreal to play in a trio with bassist Charlie Biddle and drummer Charlie Duncan.
Mr. Sealey moved to New York in 1960 to play the Playboy Club with Kai Winding. He later worked with saxophonist Sonny Rollins and joined The Platters as musical director and pianist.
Mr. Sealey spent about nine years in the Caribbean teaching music andplaying in hotel orchestras before returning to the U.S. in 1980. Mr. Sealey had just finished recording an album that will be released on the Tangerine label in January.
Track Listing: Image In The Mirror, My Window, All At Once, My Fragile Heart, I'll Remember Love, Who's Been Loving You, Hardly A Day, Alone With You, I'm In Love Again, You're My World, The Dragonfly And The Pearl