Should you peruse Boston-based jazz vocalist Rebecca Parris's website, you're treated to photographs of Parris with some notable jazz artists, including Carol Sloane, Carmen McRae and Shirley Horn. If you glance at the links page, you'll note Parris's obvious friendship with the likes of the great Nancy King and Patti Wicks. It is in this heady company where Rebecca Parris belongs, front and center. Parris has a couple of major things in common with these artists to support this: one, all of the aforementioned singers are all superb balladeers in the same way that Bill Evans and Fred Hersch are the same on piano, and two, they have deep and broad vocal capacities, almost ethereally so. These characteristics together provide solid jazz voices of experience and truth.
Rebecca Parris set a high standard and proved her ballad bona fides with her 2000 Koch release My Foolish Heart. Seven years later (with a holiday collection, The Secret of Christmas in between), Parris is finally back with this well-considered recital of jazz standards. On You Don't Know Me, Parris shows her upbeat chops as well as her ballad finesse. She does this mostly in trio and quartet settings, plus occasional duets. She is joined by saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and Houston Person, who share perfect empathy on "Alone Together and "Don't Go to Strangers respectively.
You Don't Know Me suggests that Rebecca Parris ought to record a bit more often. This recording has many highlights, but Parris's duet musings with Gary Burton and Peter Kontrimas, "All of You, "My Ship, and "Smile are true standouts, illustrating the poet in both Parris and Burton (and recalling her previous collaboration with Burton, It's Another Day). But the absolute apex of the recording is the title track. This is the single song that may be out of place on the disc, as it is fully steeped in the church/gospel/blues/country tradition and not the fodder of the balladeer. And does she sing!
Parris typically reserves this piece for late in a late set, and it is easy to understand why. She pulls out all of the stops and belts this little bit of musical sunshine to the fence. Brad Hatfield provides the best double-fisted piano playing heard since the late Gene Harris tickled the blue notes. Peter Kontrimas's vibrating bass root notes mimic the Hammond B-3 that would be completely at home in this song. All this and Houston Person's big Texas tenor sound sandblast the edges off the Ray Charles classic handing it directly to Parris for her own.
Rebecca Parris continues an integral and important vein in jazz music, that of supreme interpreter. She channels the spirit of those great vocalists she has known and projects that spirit, with hers, into the future.
Weaver of Dreams; I Didn't Know About You; All of You; You Don't Know Me; Lush Life; I Didn't Know What Time It Was; Yesterdays/We'll Be Together Again; Don't Go To Strangers; I Wish I Knew; My Ship; Alone Together; Desafinado; Too Late Now; East of the Sun; Smile.
Brad Hatfield: piano; Peter Kontrimas: bass; Matt Gordy, Jim Lattini: drums; Gary Burton: vibraphone, Jerry Bergonzi, Houston Person: tenor saxophone.
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