The Sirens of Swing, Leila Percy and Muriel Havenstein, are well established in the small, but flourishing jazz scene in Maine. They got together with some up North friends and recorded this very attractive album. Pianist Muriel Havenstein's jazz roots go back to the 1940's when she was a member of Estelle and Her Brunettes. Jimmy Lyden on bass has been playing since 1970, while drummer Les Harris, Jr. is a Berklee College of Music graduate and a regular member of the Tom Gallant Trio. Reedman Charlie Jennison has worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Natalie Cole and Buddy DeFranco. Bandleader and self styled "canary" Leila Jane Percy's career has seen her doing everything from Broadway tunes to country. She took on Big Band jazz when she joined Randy Bean & Co. and assumed leadership of that outfit upon the demise of Mr. Bean.
Percy sings on most cuts with an alto voice with limited range, but with an excellent understanding of the lyrics and the ability to convey her feeling for the music to the listening audience. These songs clearly are familiar territory to her and her interpretations are heartfelt and romantic. Listen to her on a very wistful "What'll I Do" and how she deftly weaves in and out with Jimmy Lyden's bass on "Shiny Stockings." This cut includes an inspired improv by Charlie Jennison's tenor as he recalls "You'd Be So Easy to Love" during his solo. Charlie Jennison's tenor assumes Coleman Hawkins huskiness to it on "Indian Summer." >Peel Me a Grape" is not done in its usual "if you want me you better start peeling now" style a la Anita O'Day, but rather as someone who wants the fruit because she's really hungry.
The album is also a fortuitous mix of vocals and instrumentals. Jennison's sax is featured on Benny Carter's lovely "Only Trust Your Heart" and Havenstein's piano is spotlighted on "You Don't Know What Love Is". Havenstein can get down with most piano styles doing a respectable stride on "There's a Small Hotel" and swinging on "Hey Good Lookin'". But her major contribution is providing the framework for Percy's vocalizing. The rhythm of Lyden and Harris on bass and drums, respectively, lay down a dependable foundation for the proceedings and perform admirably when called on to solo. For me, the tour de force is the group's rendition of one of the most recorded songs of all times, Mr. Carmichael's "Stardust" where Percy is aided and abetted by Havenstein and the Jennison flute. This album is an entertaining 60 minutes plus of music and is recommended.
Tracks:There's a Small Hotel; Indian Summer; Yesterdays; My Funny Valentine; Shiny Stockings; Willow Weep for Me; What a Difference a Day Made; You Don't Know What Love Is; What'll I Do; Peel Me a Grape; Only Trust Your Heart; Stardust; Hey Good Lookin'Tracks:Leila Jane Percy-vocals/band leader; Muriel Havenstein-piano; Jimmy Lyden-bass; Les Harris, Jr.-drums; Charlie Jennison-tenor saxophone/flute
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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