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MP3 Nancy Harrow - An Intimate Evening With Nancy Harrow

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MP3 Nancy Harrow - An In
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Jazz storytelling in a live performance from 1995-96; in an intimate club setting, jazz singer Nancy Harrow, accompanied by the late Roland Hanna, piano, and Paul West, bass, sings of life and love.

16 MP3 Songs in this album (56:03) !
Related styles: Jazz: Jazz Vocals, Jazz: Piano Jazz, Type: Lyrical

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Even before Nancy Harrow recorded her first album, Wild Women Donât Have the Blues, she had been sitting in at jazz clubs in New York City â Mintonâs and the Five Spot, where she sang with Kenny Burrellâs group; and at the Half Note, where she sang with Bob Brookmeyer & Clark Terryâs small group. The first album put her in with three Count Basie veterans, headed by Buck Clayton, and was released on the Candid label. (This same album, 40 years later, was selected by the British Jazz Awards as one of the best reissues of the year.) Nancy went on to perform in New York clubs and throughout Europe and most recently in Japan, and to record fifteen more jazz albums with many stellar jazz musicians â John Lewis, Roland Hanna, Phil Woods, Jim Hall, Bob Brookmeyer, Dick Katz, Clark Terry, Grady Tate, Ray Drummond, Kenny Barron, to mention a few â before she turned to writing the songs on her own.

Recent CDs Nancy has recorded were all her own inventions based on literary subjects, including a Willa Cather novel (Lost Lady), a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Marble Faun), and a CD about F. Scott Fitzgerald (Winter Dreams), which formed the nucleus of This Side of Paradise, the new musical about Zelda and Scott which has just completed its 6-week run in NYC with a cast of 7 actor/singers and a jazz quartet. Lost Lady was the subject of an All Things Considered NPR piece and was chosen as best jazz vocal album by the Village Voice and the Boston Globe. The Marble Faun was performed in a Concert Workshop at the Culture Project in 1999, with a 6-piece band led by Roland Hanna, a string quartet, 4 singers and 4 actors. Two of Nancyâs jazz song cycles were based on childrenâs stories. The Adventures of Maya the Bee, by Waldemar Bonsels, ran as a puppet show in NYC for seven years and was translated into Japanese and ran for two years there. The Cat Who Went To Heaven, based on a story by Elizabeth Coatsworth, had short runs in NYC at the Mercer Street Theater, the Asia Society, and the Harlem School of the Arts, and will have a weekâs performances at the Kennedy Center in the spring of 2011.
This new album is a live performance from 1995-96, never before released. It is composed of standards and originals, mostly standards.

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Excerpts from an essay by Ted Ono, Baldwin Music:


As a person who has been avidly collecting jazz vocal records for over forty years, I find this new CD really unique, especially considering the state of todayâs jazz vocal outputs. I have always admired Nancy as an individualistic artist. It is true that every one of her previous fourteen albums was produced with plenty of care and meanings. She never was the type to rush an album out by stringing together ten or twelve familiar standards. To make her personal and artistic statement was her main goal each time she made a record. She never considered demographics or trends. Even when she recorded songs by such contemporary writers as Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, she managed to turn them into her own kind of music. In other words, she could make anything sound like an âart song.â As it usually turns out, her fans hardly noticed who had written those songs.

This album is especially personal for Nancy because, for the first time, listeners get to hear her performance in front of an audience. She is a jazz singer within each song she sings, but she also comes from the generation when jazz artists were supposed to be entertainers. She understands that she has to have âan act.â In her cabaret act, she shows her honest self. Nothing is put-on. Her personal warmth and sense of humor are more evident in these spontaneous moments.

Nancy received her college degree when most young girl singers were looking for a job in the dance band business. Nancyâs first love was great literature, but hearing Billie Holiday sing awoke in her a desire to sing jazz. Working as an editor in a publishing house daytimes, she spent her evenings studying diligently and sitting in with musicians in jazz clubs. By 1957, she made some demo discs which were very good. After preparing herself for several years, the break came. She caught Nat Hentoffâs attention, and the result was her 1960 debut album âWild Women Donât Have the Bluesâ on the Candid label. While the majority of her contemporaries in the early 1960s were emulating either Sarah Vaughan, June Christy, or Dinah Washington, Nancy sang with confidence and authority in a style that was normally associated with singers of the Swing Era.

For her debut album, she was accompanied by a medium-sized orchestra which included three musicians from the legendary late 1930âs Count Basie Orchestra â Buddy Tate, Dickie Wells, and Buck Clayton, who wrote arrangements and led the band. The songs and the band chosen for Nancy were very similar to Jimmy Rushingâs for his Vanguard sessions several years earlier. She was completely at home in this setting as if she were Helen Humes, especially successful with the blues and bluesy pop tunes. Even if largely because of her accompanying musicians, her debut album became a hit for her in the world of jazz. In fact, the record has never gone out of print completely since its original release. It seems that every fan of mainstream jazz I have met knows this record. As far as jazz vocal fans are concerned, her âWild Woman Donât Have The Bluesâ album put her on the map.

By the early 1970s, Nancy had left the night club scene to work as the editor of a literary magazine; her two sons were very young, and the general musical taste didnât favor her type of jazz any more. She returned to the club scene as soon as new clubs that featured mainstream jazz re-emerged in the mid 1970s. Barney Josephson opened his new jazz club/restaurant The Cookery in 1974. It was there I heard Nancy for the first time in late 1975. She was splitting the week with Helen Humes at that time. I got to know Mr. Josephson quite well because of my family connection. I got to hang out with Helen Humes and Rose Murphy at the Cookery quite regularly because it was located practically within the campus of NYU, which I was attending. Josephson also presented Adelaide Hall and Nellie Lutcher. Much greater business came to the club when Josephson hired 82 year-old Alberta Hunter in 1979. I knew all these names from my grandfatherâs record collection. I was also aware of Nancyâs âWild Womenâ¦â album, but didnât yet have enough knowledge to fully appreciate its merits.

I remember hearing Josephson say about Nancy, âSheâs really authentic.â That was a huge compliment since Josephson had a very specific taste (which was unfailingly good) and only hired authentically original performers. He had been that way since the day he started with his first club, the Café Society Downtown, in 1939. Billie Holiday and Big Joe Turner were the first vocalists he presented.

About Nancyâs singing style, one notable music critic said âRuth Etting sings Billie Holidayâ when he heard her sing Mean To Me. Somebody pointed out the similarity between Nancy (of the early 1980s) and Mildred Bailey (of 1933-1935). The bottom line is that Nancy is a genuine classic. Although she never studied the singing styles of Etting, Bailey, Annette Hanshaw, and others of their times, she sounds as if she came from that classic period. All of these qualities she possesses are organic. She never copied anyoneâs style intentionally except that she was heavily drawn to Billie Holidayâs records at the beginning of her career. The original 10â LP of Lee Wileyâs âNight In Manhattanâ also made a strong impression on her. She knows what she likes at once when she hears it. Her taste is interestingly eclectic. She doesnât like anything artificial or gimmicky. Imitating somebody doesnât suit her. Neither does anything that is too sentimental or dramatic.

Technically speaking, certain things Nancy does are unorthodox, just as Ruth Olay, Morgana King, Sheila Jordan, and Betty Carter (to pick notable jazz voices of her generation) were each unique and idiosyncratic. Unlike many jazz singers, Nancy never improvises in an âin your faceâ manner. Nancy is not a show-off. Everything she does is subtle and tasteful. Like her accompanist Roland Hanna, she is always in the moment. Take If I Could Be With You, which I consider one of the highlights of this CD; Nancy hardly sings the original melody but she does it in such an easy manner that she makes it sound as though she is singing the melody. In some songs, especially her own compositions, she hardly departs from the original melodies. Nonetheless, she always manages to retain her jazz identity.

In 1990, Nancy began adapting her favorite literary pieces into musical shows. She merged her two loves: great literature and jazz. She recorded her first piece, âLost Lady,â with a Broadway actor/singer Vernel Bagneris, with solid jazz arrangements written by pianist Dick Katz. Dan Morgenstern, who wrote the booklet notes, called it her âsong cycleâ album, but as Ray Drummond, the bassist for the date, said, âShe wrote herself a complete musical.â I agree. I prefer calling them original jazz cast albums. They would have played very well as radio musicals if she had written them in the 1940s. By 2005, she had completed five of these original jazz cast albums. As I predicted in the mid 1990s, her projects have been developed into stage productions of various kinds. In this show, Nancy debuted several songs from her up-coming theatre piece âMaya the Bee.â She also sings one song from âLost Lady.â

Nancyâs music is purely personal. Both artistically and personally, Nancy is unaffected. She does what she does because of her own creative urges. Among the performers of her generation and older, I can think of Nancy and Sheila Jordan as the only ones who are not jaded in the slightest sense. At an age when most of her contemporaries are retired or reticent about learning anything new, Nancy remains genuinely enthusiastic and creative.

In the late fall of 1985, when I was talking with Barbara Lea in some jazz club, I told her about my plan to record Nancy on my label. Barbara said, âThatâs really great. I like Nancy. Sheâs a real person.â In a business filled with insecurity and jealousy, it was such a remarkable comment uttered by one artist about another. Making a studio album with Nancy and Roland was one of the highlights of my career, and the resultant product -- the LP âYouâre Nearerâ (on Tono)-- received many rave reviews. Ten years later, Nancy and Roland did this âliveâ date with the wonderfully understated support of bassist Paul West. It was recorded by the gifted recording engineer Malcolm Addey. Fans and friends gathered and filled the room with such warmth, affection, and sincere appreciation that the atmosphere is clearly audible on the disc. The mutual admiration between Nancy and Roland is also obvious. This is a wonderful cabaret act performed by the most enthusiastic of veteran jazz singers, Nancy Harrow, a real person.

Ted Takashi Ono





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