Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

313

Jeanne Lee: Natural Affinities

By

Sign in to view read count
All instruments are, naturally, a mere approximation of what can be done with the human voice; yet in avant-garde improvisation, it is the saxophonists and pianists who are credited with being the innovators. Artists like Jeanne Lee, Patty Waters and Julie Tippetts are often shunted aside to make way for counterparts Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and Evan Parker... men with horns.

Of those three vocal artists, Lee was always the most grounded in jazz vocal tradition, able to remain true to both lyrical expression and a strong blues feeling while also engaging the wordless properties of the voice. Natural Affinities is one of a scant few albums Lee has led or co-led, though luckily her appearances as sideman on numerous sessions leave us with many troughs to mine in her absence.

Recently reissued domestically, this recording is a solid showcase of just how far Lee cast her stylistic net, ranging from free improvisation to straight ahead readings of standards. She is joined here by a few of the usual suspects: multi-instrumentalist Gunter Hampel (with whom she recorded regularly throughout the '70s and '80s), alto saxophonist Mark Whitecage, bassist Lisle Atkinson, and drummer Newman Baker are the meat of the group, though there are some all-star appearances as well.

The set starts off with a high-water mark, though admittedly on paper a dubious prospect, her half-sung, half-spoken reading of excerpts from Mingus' Beneath the Underdog in "Mingus Meditations," a duet with bassist Dave Holland, is superb. Though a far cry from her 1962 duets with Ran Blake, it is still proof that she may be at her best in a duo or small-group setting. However, there is very little of Lee's trademark extended technique here; if you are searching for wordless lip- and throat-improvisation, you should look elsewhere. Even when joined in a fairly freewheeling group improvisation, as in "Trilogy" with Wadada Leo Smith, Atkinson, and Baker, she sings the lyrics rather straight through as the group skitters around her lines. This does create an interesting tension, but some of the variety of past performances is missing.

The one standard performed here, "I Thought About You," is given a very straight reading, in a duet with her cousin, pianist-vocalist Paul Broadnax. Unfortunately, it lacks some of the brashness and humor that mark some of her other recordings in similar settings.

If you are new to the world of Jeanne Lee, this recording would be a very worthwhile disc to investigate, for her contribution to the lineage of jazz vocals and improvised music is made clear. It may be a bit unfair to compare this record, one of her last recorded works, with a back catalog spanning 20 or 30 years, but truth be told it just doesn't have the same weight.


Track Listing: 1. Mingus Meditations (Holland/Lee/Mingus) - 12:06 2. I Thought About You (Mercer/VanHeusen) - 5:04 3. Journey to Edaneres (Hampel/Lee) - 12:22 4. Peace Chorale I/Bushwacked/Peace Chorale... (Clayton/Lee/Tse/Whitecage) - 8:37 5. Free Space (Freeman) - 2:52 6. Trilogy (Smith) - 10:46 7. Ambrosia Mama/Celebration of a State of... (Lee/Shange) - 8:00

Personnel: Gunter Hampel - Flute, Vibraphone; Jerome Harris - Guitar; Dave Holland - Bass; Wadada Leo Smith - Trumpet; Newman Baker - Drums; Jeanne Lee - Vocals; Amina Claudine Myers - Piano, Vocals; Mark Whitecage - Alto Sax; Paul Broadnax - Piano, Vocals; Lisle Atkinson - Bass.

Title: Natural Affinities | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Owl Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Just Friends" CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 11, 2017
Read "Kansas City Here I Come" CD/LP/Track Review Kansas City Here I Come
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Recent Developments" CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Open Borders" CD/LP/Track Review Open Borders
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 16, 2017
Read "Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" CD/LP/Track Review Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 4, 2017
Read "Saturday Night Dogs" CD/LP/Track Review Saturday Night Dogs
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 30, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!