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Patty Waters: Sings

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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This legendary 1965 debut of Patty Waters, simply entitled Sings, is everything that it became famous for. Today, it's also clear how a recording such as this would have come to stand for the angst and anguish of a generation of musicians who were in the forefront of the avant-garde movement in jazz music. Using an organic combination of the human voice, its ability to reflect a myriad of human emotions and breathy spare lyricism, Waters is able to communicate and emote from the very depths of the soul. To that extent, she is truly an innovator whose contribution to music extends well beyond the free jazz idiom that she came to lead, by using the instrument of her voice.

Waters is known to have come under the spell of Billie Holiday while she was still in high school. But rather than trying to sing like her, she appears to have understood the depths of anguish from where Holiday drew her ability to touch every nerve in the body as she sang. The epiphany appears to have turned Waters into one of a handful of vocalists, who was able to inhabit the deepest and most naked emotions of the song. Thus she was able to—when discovered by Albert Ayler and introduced to Bernard Stollman in the '60s—turn her existential angst into songs of rare beauty and insightfulness, emoting with elemental sadness, loneliness, joy and sometimes despair. Whatever the emotion she inhabited, it appears that Patty Waters became a poster girl for the "white" experience of alienation during a trying time in America.

Sings captures with nuanced precision, the explosive nature of Waters' vocal brilliance. The record is so exquisitely crafted and sequenced it's as if she deliberately and deftly manipulated her audience by mesmerizing and dulling the senses, first with romanticism as on "Moon, Don't Come Up Tonight," but which soon lays bare the real emotion behind the song. It seems that Waters is setting her audience up, causing them to believe that all is well. Then, as the dynamic tension builds with tracks such as "Why Can't I Come To You," "You Thrill Me," and "Sad Am I, Glad Am I," Waters springs back with "Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair." This is when the tension is palpable, and in the darkest, most nourished fashion, Waters appears to rip the heart out of a comfortable existence. This song ought to be held as the flag of the heartless and hollow 1960s, typified by a singular lack of anything to hold on to as being hopeful.

Four decades on, it is still possible to unabashedly admire the singular art of Patty Waters, an artist who was an inspiration to the likes of Yoko Ono, Patti Smith and Diamanda Galas.

Track Listing: Moon, Don't Come Up Tonight; Why Can't I Come to You; You Thrill Me; Sad Am I, Glad Am I; Why Is Love Such A Funny Thing; I Can't Forget You; You Loved Me; Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair.

Personnel: Patty Waters: voice, piano (1-7); Burton Greene: piano and piano harp (8); Steve Tintweiss: bass (8); Tom Price: percussion (8).

Title: Sings | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk

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