Lady Memfis

Expressions of a Legacy

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San Francisco boasts of being the home for many good jazz singers. One of the higher-ranking vocal inhabitants, by the way of Baton Rouge, LA, is Lady Memfis (formerly known as Jacqui Johnson). As the title implies, this album is dedicated to those giant jazz singers, past and present (mostly past), who this singer respects, especially Billie Holiday, LaVern Baker, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, and Dinah Washington. The opening track, "Blues Skies," sets the tone and standard for this excellent vocal album as Lady Memfis displays excellent phrasing and diction with a voice that seems to have been especially crafted for jazz vocals. This cut also is highlighted by an incredible bass solo by Mike Bacile followed by a far-ranging drum solo by Ranzell Merritt. This is jazz singing as it was done when some of those honored by this album were still around, straight from the gut, no holds barred, leave nothing in the studio, exultant, a sometimes gospel-inflected celebration of song. "Them There Eyes" has the singer and tenor Robert Stewart going at each other hard and heavy, while Dr. John's (Mac Rebennack) "Such a Night" is given an old-time music hall treatment led by the piano roll like 88s of Tammy Hall. Lady Memfis' rich coloratura kicks off "Water Boy" a cappella as if she were leading a New Orleans brass band on the way to the cemetery to lay to rest one of the brothers, except here the major instrument is Kash Killion's cello. The singer's vocal chords supply the brass. This is the first album for Lady Memfis, but hopefully not the last. She is an outstanding singer who has the equipment and style to make a solid contribution to vocal jazz. Highly recommended.