I ran into Edmonia Jarrett last January in Anaheim, California, a few moments after I ran headlong into some recording equipment, opening an inch–long gash on my forehead (but that’s another story). Edmonia, a volunteer worker at the annual Conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators, led me to a seat and found an ice pack for my head. “What do you do when you’re not volunteering?” I asked. “I’m a Jazz singer,” she replied. “Here’s my card,” I said. About a month later these discs arrived, giving me a chance to hear for myself whether Edmonia was being straight with me or simply talking trash. What can I say? Edmonia, you are
are Jazz singer — and you are fabulous!
The voice is as deep and rock–ribbed as a chasm, the timing as steady as a metronome, the intonation precise, the delivery as charming and sure–footed as a waltz by Fred and Ginger. The Seattle
put it this way: “If thick, cloudy ribbons of cedar smoke could talk, their voices would sound a lot like Edmonia Jarrett.” In searching for comparisons, I was reminded of the late great Alberta Hunter, another of my personal favorites. Unlike Alberta, who had two careers — early and late — Edmonia spent much of her adult life as a respected educator and school administrator in Seattle before she was diagnosed with cancer. Spurning chemotherapy, she placed her faith in a higher Power and survived. It was only then that Jarrett, apparently a natural–born singer, decided to pursue a “second career,” and education’s loss is our gain — and mustn’t her former colleagues be surprised! On Legal at Any Age
she meshes wonderfully (on “Too Good to Be True” and “East of the Sun”) with another survivor, Freddy Cole, who has spent years calmly building a solid reputation as someone other than Nat’s brother. She also duets (on “Come Rain or Come Shine”) with virtuosic bassist Andy Simpkins. On both recordings, Jarrett shows that she can swing, sing the blues or caress a ballad about as well as anyone. While the wellspring from which her abundant talent flows is a mystery, we should be thankful that it’s there for everyone to hear and appreciate. Her choice of material, by the way, is exemplary, and her sidemen are outstanding. So you weren’t pulling my leg after all, Edmonia — thanks for the ice, and even more for the wonderful listening experience! My hat’s off to you.
Track listing: Live, Live, Live! — Someone to Watch Over Me; Moonglow; When a Woman Loves a Man; Roll ’Em, Pete; Willow Weep for Me; The More I See You; Live, Live, Live; I Cover the Waterfront; Smile; On the Street Where You Live; Skylark; Gone with the Wind; Oh, But Your Eyes (56:55). Legal at Any Age — The Jazz in You; In Love in Vain; Too Good to Be True; Sugar; Come Rain or Come Shine; You Stepped Out of a Dream; Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams; Endlessly; If You Love Me; How Am I to Know?; Don’t Misunderstand; So This Is Love; Speak Low; When October Goes; East of the Sun (58:39).