The San Francisco Bay area is home to Poignant Records, the brainchild of Natasha Miller. Like many smaller, independent labels, this one provides a window to the creative spirits of those among us who deserve greater recognition. It doesn't come easy, and nothing in this world is automatic; but we're fortunate to have 'em.
The Fantasy Sessions
Bobby Sharp sings his songs with the feelings of a true believer. He wrote them more than thirty years ago. After serving in the US Army during World War II, Sharp made use of his GI Bill privilege to study music theory and composition at the Greenwich School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. Songwriting came naturally, and he recorded several. Ruth Brown recorded one of his songs, and Ray Charles made another one quite popular: "Unchain My Heart. The songwriter also wrote songs for Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis, Jr. and James Baldwin.
Hard times fell on Bobby Sharp. He spent years bouncing in and out of drug rehab clinics. But life turned around for him eventually. He lives in California now, and has resurrected his career after being "discovered by Natasha Miller. The years have been kind to Sharp. Now 80, his voice sounds as fresh and as free as if he were still 29.
Bobby's Bounce finds him swinging at the piano in an instrumental number with ensemble that carries considerable momentum. "Sweet Lenore is portrayed as a quaint love song with guitar accompaniment. A true romantic, Sharp sings his songs from the heart with deep feeling. "Who Among You features a mellow string section backing Sharp's pleasant vocal ballad. The blues runs through much of the program; the veteran singer/pianist/songwriter delivers his message convincingly.
Singer Natasha Miller interprets a program of songs by Bobby Sharp with her fourth album on Poignant Records. Ballads and sultry swingers complement her voice with the right feeling as she translates each lyric into meaningful dialogue. She's accompanied by an ensemble comprised of California veterans, many of whom appear on Bobby Sharp's recording.
Miller's voice gives each selection a lovely appearance. She swings and she exerts sincerity throughout the program. She's hampered in spots by the horns, since they tend to clash with imperfect pitch resolution. Miller is best when working alone with piano trio, as she does on "Prisoner of the Blues, a gut-wrenching dramatic sequence that she carries out exceptionally well. Tenor saxophonist Rob Roth adds a soulful solo spot to this riveting example of the magnetism that Bobby Sharp's songs hold in store.
Sharp joins her on "As the Years Come and Go with a heartfelt message about sharing life and love. Pianist Josh Nelson and bassist John Shifflet add superb solos to the session, as well as comfortable accompaniment throughout. "Don't Set Me Free stands out for its spunk, spirit, soul and New Orleans texture. Miller sings 'em from the heart, and proves beyond a doubt that Sharp's songs remain as valuable as a Forty-Niner goldmine strike.
Tracks and Personnel
The Fantasy Sessions
Tracks: High Upon a Mountain; I Ain't Got No Business; Stolen Love (on Highway 99); Daddy Romeo; Bobby's Bounce; Who Among You; Sweet Lenore; Lonesome Traveler; Infinity; North Wind; Turning Point; Eva; This is the End (of a Beautiful Beginning).
Personnel: Bobby Sharp: vocals, piano; John Shifflett: bass; Tim Bulkley: drums; Steve Erquiaga: guitar; Natasha Miller: violin; Liz Prior: viola; Marcie Brown: cello; Jeff Lewis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rob Roth: tenor saxophone; Alicia Telford: French horn; David Granger: bassoon.
Tracks: Don't Move; You Don't Have to Learn (How to Sing the Blues); Stolen Love (on Highway 99); Snow Covers the Valley; Once More; Prisoner of the Blues; Don't Set Me Free; Bye Bye Bayou; At Midnight; As the Years Come and Go; Doin' the Impossible.
Personnel: Natasha Miller: vocals, violin; Josh Nelson: piano; John Shifflet: bass; Tim Bulkley: drums; Rob Roth: tenor saxophone; Jeff Lewis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Adam Theis: trombone; Emil Miland: cello; Liz Prior Runnicles: viola; Bobby Sharp: vocal.
Visit Bobby Sharp and Natasha Miller on the web.