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Having had the pleasure of hearing the most recent of Sathima Bea Benjamin's albums, Musical Echoes, some six months ago, I'm hesitant to add any more superlatives now that this retrospective look at the career of one of our finest jazz vocalists is about to be released. SongSpirit covers recordings made from 1963-2002. This collection of recordings shows Benjamin's affinity for pianists and includes the participation of some of the best: including Duke Ellington, Kenny Barron, Larry Willis and, of course, Abdullah Ibrahim, her husband.
The dozen selections include songs borrowed from the Great American Songbook, plus some of Sathima Bea Benjamin's own compositions, reflecting her interests in African heritage, as well as her feelings about South Africa's restrictive policies over the decadesand these songs can be best expressed by the titles "Children of Soweto," "Africa" and "Music."
The earliest recording comes from a Duke Ellington meeting, including violinist Svend Asmussen, on "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good." A previously unreleased duet recording of "It Never Entered My Mind" with Abdullah Ibrahim comes from Switzerland in 1973. Among the compositions that are burnished by the singer are "I Only Have Eyes For You," "Indian Summer," "Lush Life" and "Memories of You." Additional contributions feature saxophonists Ricky Ford (tenor on "Music") and Carlos Ward (alto on "Children of Soweto").
The liner notes include a most interesting interview with Sathima Bea Benjamin by jazz critic Francis Davis.
Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life; I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good; Africa; Indian Summer; It Never Entered My Mind; I Only Have Eyes for You; Memories of You; Music; Lush Life; Children of Soweto; I'll Follow My Secret Heart; Loveless Love/Careless Love
Sathima Bea Benjamin: vocals; Kenny Barron: piano (4,9,12); Duke Ellington: piano (2); Henry February: piano (6); Onaje Allan Gumbs: piano (1,3,7,10); Abdullah Ibrahim: piano (5); Stephen Scott: piano (11); Larry Willis: piano (8); Johnny Gertze: bass (2); Basil Moses: bass (6,11); Buster Williams: bass (1,3,4,7,8,9,10,12); Lulu Gontsana: drums (11); Billy Higgins: drums (3,4,8,9,10,12); Makhaya Ntshoko: drums (2); Vincent Pavitt: drums (6); Ben Riley: drums (1,7,); Svend Asmussen: pizzicato violin (2); Carlos Ward: alto saxophone (3,10); Ricky Ford: tenor saxophone (8)