Musical Echoes marks Sathima Bea Benjamin's return to recording after Cape Town Love (1999). This album was recorded in her hometown, Cape Town, and reflects a certain sense of return for the vocalist. My own association with her music goes back to 1979 and her second album, Sathima Sings Ellington, the first release on her own Ekapa label. Over the years, I've continued to be impressed with her unique voice and consistency. Upon hearing this 2006 update, I have to conclude that, from a historical perspective, Benjamin has the qualities that place a distinctive jazz vocalist in their own category, just like Sarah Vaughan, Abbey Lincoln and others.
Benjamin met the innovative pianist Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim) in the late '50s, but the two fled South Africa in 1962 due to the political climate of the day. They moved to Europe, where they stayed for much of the 1960s, which gives the release of this album a sense of bittersweet homecoming. She is joined by pianist Stephen Scott (currently with Sonny Rollins), bassist Basil Moses and drummer Lulu Gontsana, the latter both well-regarded South African musicians.
The music presented is, as always, consistent with her standards, and a tribute to the songbooks of Duke Ellington, Rodgers & Hart, Gershwin and Berlin. Benjamin lends a South African pulse to "Falling In Love With Love," offers a beautifully rendered ballad version of "Someone To Watch Over Me," and delivers a most interesting hypnotic take on "Caravan." Her peerless versions of "They Say Its Wonderful" and "Something To Live For" are also highlights. Finally, on the title tune, an original composition, the vocalist reflects on music and its healing powers.
All Too Soon; Caravan; Falling In Love With Love; I