176

Mabel Mercer: The Art of Mabel Mercer

Craig Jolley By

Sign in to view read count
The music of Mabel Mercer, a gifted cabaret singer of the 1930's - 60's, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with almost all of it now available on CD. The Art of Mabel Mercer presents her earliest commercial recordings made in her fifties.

Mercer was not blessed with much voice (Late in her career she liked to talk her way through songs as much as sing—with equal artistry.), but that did not interfere with her ability to deliver her message. She would alter the way she pronounced a word or she would emphasize a word that is usually unaccented to imply a slightly different meaning. For example the second time through on "Just One Of Those Things" she sings the bridge partly in an irritated stop-time and emphatically finalizes the word "Amen" to give a harsher and faintly bitter sense to a line that is normally sung with good feelings (and implication the door may still be open) toward the singer's ex-lover. Of course other singers attempt the same thing but not as successfully. The audience hears the song through her heart.

Her approach was old fashioned even for the time (She rolled her R's.), and it didn't help that she was often accompanied by swirling twin pianos. (Her best accompanist was Jimmy Lyons who played on her later records and on A Singer's Singer, a marvelous Mercer video). "My Shining Hour" is a wonderful tune often performed by instrumentalists but rarely sung as a ballad (particularly the verse) due to the ripeness of its lyric. Mercer's sensibility allows her to bring the song off without affectation or embarrassment.

She did not embrace what is usually considered a jazz concept, but she was informed by the blues, and her music requires active participation by her listeners—they laugh quietly when they get one of her fearless variations in the same way they smile during a solo by Clifford Brown or Milt Jackson. She was also adept at the usual, more obvious humor triggered by a clever Dorothy Fields lyric. Her unshakeable sense of time (She didn't swing, but she had danced professionally.) allowed her to sing with comfort at all tempos, particularly in extreme slowness.

This CD includes songs written especially for her or introduced by her: "While We're Young," "The End of a Love Affair," "The Riviera," "Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneeden's," many others. Mercer was noted for rescuing forgotten tunes and bringing them into the general consciousness: "Remind Me," "From This Moment On," "Little Girl Blue," "By Myself" (up tempo but cleverly disguised and relaxed in long meter), "Let Me Love You." "Feuilles Mortes" ("Autumn Leaves") is the only tune from her expansive French repertoire she ever recorded in the lyric's original language. A few of these songs are too finicky for my taste—those that mean most are the standards, although Alec Wilder's now forgotten "Is It Always Like This" ranks with the best.

Advice to first-time Mercer listeners: you may not get her the first time or even the second. It took me four years. It helps to listen with Truman-era optimism. She needs a sense of maturity and patience.

http://www.oldies.com


Track Listing: While We're Young; The First Warm Day In May; Let Me Love You; You Will Wear Velvet; Some Fine Day; Remind Me; It Happens All Over The World; Hello, Young Lovers; Feuilles Mortes [Autumn Leaves]; Over The Weekend; Goodbye John; Did You Ever Cross Over To Sneeden's; Thank You For The Flowers; It Was Worth It; Early Morning Blues; Ivory Tower; By Myself; Charm; Little Girl Blue; Trouble Man; The End Of A Love Affair; From This Moment On; You Are Not My First Love; Just One Of Those Things; The Riviera; Sunday In Savannah; Carry Me Back To Old Manhattan; Would You Believe It; While We're Young; The First Warm Day In May; Let Me Love You; You Will Wear Velvet; Some Fine Day; Remind Me; It Happens All Over The World; Hello, Young Lovers; Feuilles Mortes; Over The Weekend; Goodbye John; Did You Ever Cross Over To Sneeden's; Thank You For The Flowers; It Was Worth It; Early Morning Blues; Ivory Tower; By Myself; Charm; Little Girl Blue; Trouble Man; The End Of A Love Affair; From This Moment On; You Are Not My First Love; Just One Of Those Things; The Riviera; Sunday In Savannah; Carry Me Back To Old Manhattan; Would You Believe It.

Personnel: Mabel Mercer - vocals; George Cory, Sam Hamilton, Stan Freeman, Cy Walter, Cy Coleman - pianos.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Collectables | Style: Vocal


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "How to Build a City" CD/LP/Track Review How to Build a City
by Jim Olin
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "Perfectly Out Of Place" CD/LP/Track Review Perfectly Out Of Place
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 12, 2016
Read "Matthew Halsall: On the Go (Special Edition)" CD/LP/Track Review Matthew Halsall: On the Go (Special Edition)
by Phil Barnes
Published: July 1, 2016
Read "When In Moscow" CD/LP/Track Review When In Moscow
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 12, 2016
Read "Intermission" CD/LP/Track Review Intermission
by Dave Wayne
Published: June 24, 2016
Read "Ready Take One" CD/LP/Track Review Ready Take One
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 13, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

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!

Buy it!