The recording studio is not always the best place for an artist to showcase their skills. Performers who have achieved their greatest success playing in front of an audience may in fact be unable to duplicate in the sterile confines of the studio that elusive talent that makes them so compelling on stage. Just as the craft of acting for the camera demands a different approach than acting in a theater, so too must a singer adjust when captured on tape rather than seen in the flesh.
Thus we find Lena Horne captured on Seasons of a Life, a grab-bag collection of live and studio recordings. While Horne is an entrancing performer in the nightclub setting, where she projects class and warmth, her performances on disc can seem a bit much. Her frequent technique of talk-singing is a fine tool for communicating through vocals and body language, but here, suspended from the context of a flesh and blood performance, it seems kind of odd.
The take on "Chelsea Bridge succeeds because it is relatively subdued; Horne's sophistication and style come through loud and clear when she isn't projecting to the back of the club. Elsewhere, "I've Got To Have You, penned by Kris Kristofferson, is a total misfire. In order to sing a Kristofferson song successfully, one must either be Kristofferson himself, or else tuned into his own unique frequency. It is fair to say that Horne fits neither prerequisite.
The fact that Seasons of a Life fails as an album is not a condemnation of Horne's talent, but rather a confirmation that her unique gifts are best suited to other mediums.
Track Listing: Black Is; Maybe; I've Got to Have You; I'll Always Leave the Door a Little Open; You're the One; Something to Live For; Chelsea Bridge; Singin' in the Rain; Willow Weep for Me; Stormy Weather.
Personnel: Lena Horne- vocals; Rodney Jones- guitars; Mike Renzi- piano, keyboards; Oliver Von Essen- organ; Benjamin Brown- bass; Akira Tana- drums; Donald Harrison- alto saxophone; Herbie Hancock- piano on "Chelsea Bridge" and "Willow Weep for Me;" Bobby Forrester- organ on "Singin' in the Rain;" Mark Sherman- vibraphone on "Singin' in the Rain;" Lewis Nash- drums on "Singin' in the Rain;" Frank Owens- piano on "Stormy Weather."
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.