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Mary Stallings: Live At the Village Vanguard

C. Michael Bailey By

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Veteran vocalist with Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, and The Count Basie Band steps out on her own into the spotlight of Jazz's most sacred club with an interesting set of Standards.

In New York's most venerated jazz club, San Francisco native Mary Stallings fires her ten-gauge contralto at a dizzying array of the American Songbook, hitting those pages not previously dog-eared by other artists. Fronting Eric Reed's fine tenor-lead quartet, Ms. Stallings steps up and just opens her mouth, expelling history. She begins her Village Vanguard stand with the rocking "I Love Being Here with You" and spins her way through all tempos and moods. Her ballad singing is sensitive and informed on "You're Sensational", "Sunday Kind of Love", and "All Night Long". Her voice gently waltzes with these less oft performed tunes, making them sound like earth poetry. She is equally convincing on the up tempo numbers— check out "Lullaby of the Leaves." Her phrasing is all her own and has changed little since Dizzy, Billy, and Bill.

Marsalis-alum Eric Reed has been making the rounds as composer, performer, and accompanist since leaving the Marsalis fold. Typical of all Marsalis alumni, Reed swings harder and more freely here than he ever did under Wynton's tutelage. Marsalis is the modern Blakey, he gets his musicians started to go on to bigger and better things. Ron Blake's tenor is full throated and a perfect match of Stallings' firearm talent. Vicente Archer and Carl Allen very much hold down the fort in the rhythm section. This may be MAXJAZZ's finest release yet in their "Vocal Series". A great start in the arena of live-in-performance music.

Title: Live At The Village Vanguard | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Sony Urban Music

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