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The "L.A. Treasures" heralded herein are singers Ernie Andrews (eighty-six years young when the album was recorded in September 2013) and Barbara Morrison (a relative novice at sixty-one). The idea to record sprang from rehearsals earlier that year by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in which Andrews and Morrison were invited to sit in. Afterward, co-leader John Clayton writes, it was decided that "we need to document these artists . . . these treasures!" What a splendid idea! An idea, in fact, that leaves most others in its wake and gasping for breath.
The album, taped before an audience at the Alvas Showroom in San Pedro, CA, is divided into three nonsequential parts, with Andrews and Morrison each out front on four numbers and five more reserved for the orchestra, which raises the curtain with a brisk rendition of "I Love Being Here with You." Morrison, whose blues syllabus is impeccable, is up next, revitalizing the standard "Exactly Like You," after which Andrews explains what the blues is all about on Percy Mayfield's ode to inebriation, "The Jug and I." Drummer Jeff Hamilton, the orchestra's second (of three) co-leaders, and pianist Tamir Hendelman co-wrote the sunny "Hat's Dance," which precedes Andrews' seductive take on the oft-ridden warhorse "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and Morrison's sassy rendition of her own irrepressible blues, "Got to Get Back to L.A."
Jeff Clayton, the CHJO's third co-leader, is showcased on flute on Charles Mingus' tender homage to Lester Young, "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," Morrison holds forth on another charming Mayfield theme, "River's Invitation," and Andrews follows that with an intrepid reading of "A Beautiful Friendship" before the orchestra returns with a sauntering version of "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues," featuring guitarist Graham Dechter. Andrews ends his segment in captivating style with "Time After Time," Morrison does the same with Peggy Lee's sultry signature song, "Fever," and the orchestra neatly wraps the package with John Clayton's Basie-like "Jazz Party," enfolding ardent solos by tenors Rickey Woodard and Charles Owens and typically incisive drumming by Hamilton.
As singers go, the dynamic duo of Andrews and Morrison is hard to outflank. Add the dynamic CHJO and you have a clear-cut winner.
I Love Being Here with You; Exactly Like You; The Jug and I; Hat’s Dance; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; Got to Get Back to L.A.; Goodbye Porkpie Hat; River’s Invitation; A Beautiful Friendship; I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues; Time After Time; Fever; Jazz Party.
John Clayton: co-leader, arco bass; Jeff Clayton: co-leader, alto sax; Jeff Hamilton: co-leader, drums; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet; James Ford: trumpet; Brian Swartz: trumpet; Jamie Hovorka: trumpet; Keith Fiddmont: alto sax; Rickey Woodard: tenor sax; Charles Owens: tenor sax; Lee Callet: baritone sax; Ira Nepus: trombone; George Bohanon: trombone; Ryan Porter: trombone; Maurice Spears: bass trombone; Tamir Hendelman: piano; Graham Dechter: guitar; Christoph Luty: bass; Barbara Morrison: vocals (2, 6, 8, 12); Ernie Andrews: vocals (3, 5, 9, 11).
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