THE AGONY & THE ECSTASY…Andy Bey: The World According to Andy Bey, Mary Stallings: But Beautiful

What mood do you want your singer to put you in? Here are a couple of vocalists that have mastered their art and can create an environment of either dark hues or fresh pastels.

Andy Bey has been releasing some amazing material his past few albums, but this one may just be the go-to one for his career, which has included stints with Horace Silver and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. A fighter of cancer, his deep baritone voice sounds like he’s in the 14th round, but still standing. Accompanying himself is just his ten fingers on the piano keys, and he delivers emotionally draining and soul opening hues of blue and purple on material like “It Never Entered My Mind” and “But Not For Me” that make you viscerally feel every syllable and inference. Even the more uptempo pieces such as “The Joint Is Jumpin’” and “S’Wonderful” are filled with a gravitas that feel like the works of a sage rather than an entertainer. Bey’s scatting of Mile’s Davis’ trumpet solo on the bop classic “Cheryl” is as close as he gets to lighthearted, but this is just a slight breath before he warns you that “The Demons Are After You” on the next song.  You’ll have to take a break every few tunes and get up for a drink or to stretch your legs as imbibing this collection of 11 tunes  may reach parts of your mind that you thought were protected against such things. Emotionally draining, but worth the sweat.

Mary Stallings, who actually started her career with Louis Jordan and his hopping Tympany 5, as well as sharing the stage with Wes Montgomery and Ben Webster, has also been riding along a high point in her career, with her last release (Dream) being on a lot of Top Ten lists for best vocal album. This one has her fronting a team lead and directed by church deacon Eric Reed/p, Danny Janklow/as, Brian Clancy/ts, Mike Gurrola/b and Wes Anderson/dr, with the mood keeping at a joyful and fresh swing. Stalling glides like a paper airplane during 5th period on the supple “But Beautiful” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” while Janklow’s alto glows on the former while Clancy’s tenor rolls like a fog on the latter. Stallings delivers with taste and style throughout, and matched with the equally sublime Reed (One of the best vocal accompanists around) on the duet “Just a Gigolo,” rhythm trio on the pensive “You Don’t Know What Love Is” or most stylishly with just the pianist and  Clancy on “Some Other Spring” you get the feeling of listening to water colors being delicately added to a canvas, creating a picture worth cherishing in your living room. Luscious.

High Note Records

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