175

Fontella Bass: Travellin'

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
It's been a while since the public has heard from Fontella Bass, but in case a reminder is needed, she had a huge hit in the 1960's: "Rescue Me." What many of the people who remember that hit may not know is that Bass was married at the time to the immortal Lester Bowie, and she followed him to perform for several years in France. She was an integral member of the St. Louis-based Black Artists Group during its founding years, and she performed in its early years with the World Saxophone Quartet.

So what has Fontella Bass been doing all of these years? Well, she's been playing, praying, singing and staying in St. Louis, where she continued to raise a family now involving 10 grandchildren. Some of that family appears on her new Justin Time CD, Travellin', including her (and Lester's) son Bahnamous Bowie, her brother David Peaston and her son-in-law Tracy Mitchell. Recorded in St. Louis, Travellin' is an almost entirely St. Louis project, reminding the world that the city continues to nurture fine and unique talent.

The R&B spirit has remained with Bass. It's most apparent, ironically, on the tracks that she doesn't lead, such as "Special Lady" sung by Peaston and "Waiting" sung by Mitchell. With the keyboard gliding over the three changes and the two-part vocal enriching the sound of "Waiting," Mitchell veers into earnest R&B entreaties for the return of his girlfriend. Beyond the R&B, the CD contains instrumental tracks that allow the musicians to stretch out, particularly "DB Blues," a jump tune involving a repeated riff that builds to a hand-clapping finale.

Even though Bass generously allows her friends and relatives to enjoy the spotlight, she commands the CD with her still-powerful voice. More than that, she works her religious faith into most of the tunes, even those that nominally seem to have a neutral theme, like "Travellin'." Presenting an style more akin to, say, Anita Baker, than Betty Carter, Bass develops the tune as a testament of her faith. When she sings to "let the world know how good you've been to me," she's referring not to a mortal man, but to "oh precious God." And "It's Alright Now" isn't meant to comfort a human being who's hurting, but rather it tells a story: "When I started on my journey, I was a lost and lonely soul; I didn't know who I was, or where I wanted to go. I felt an emptiness inside me, something that I could not hide. Something in my heart just wouldn't abide." With gospel-tinged keyboard chords and a voice undoubtedly developed in the church, Bass can wring more meaning out of a single note than many less experienced singers can convey in an entire song.

Never is that more evident than when Bass sheds all modern references to her faith and goes unapologetically and joyously into hymns like "In The Garden" and "Thank You Lord." Reminding listeners of the tie-in between gospel and the blues and/or jazz, as Mahalia Jackson did with Duke Ellington, Bass has come full circle in recording spirituals that summarize her beliefs. At the same time, she acknowledges the more popular music that made her music known throughout the country for a short while in the sixties. Now, on Travellin', Bass is interested in music that has an eternal meaning.

http://www.justin-time.com


Track Listing: Mandela, Travellin', It's Alright Now, Special Lady, Walk With Me, Waiting, Round & Round, DB Blues, In The Garden, Thank You Lord

Personnel: Fontella Bass, vocal, piano; David Peaston, Marsha Evans, vocals; Tracy Mitchell, guitars, vocals; Ptah Williams, piano; Bahnamous Bowie, keyboards; Jimmy Hinds, bass guitar; Curtis Fondren, drums; Dwayne Bosman, Dwight Bosman, reeds

| 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 "The Long Road" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Road
by Troy Collins
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Steelonious" CD/LP/Track Review Steelonious
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 6, 2016
Read "ReNew" CD/LP/Track Review ReNew
by James Nadal
Published: March 27, 2016
Read "Protean Reality" CD/LP/Track Review Protean Reality
by John Sharpe
Published: June 22, 2016
Read "Jailhouse Doc With Holes In Her Socks" CD/LP/Track Review Jailhouse Doc With Holes In Her Socks
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 24, 2016

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!