Sathima Bea Benjamin

A Morning in Paris

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In 1963, singer Sathima Bea Benjamin persuaded Duke Ellington to see her future husband, Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand), play in a club in Europe. Ellington was impressed by both of the recent South African émigrés and arranged with Reprise to record them. While Brand's record came out within a year, Benjamin's debut was lost and not heard for decades, even by the singer. As it turned out, engineer Gerhard Lehner had made a second copy and kept it for all of these years, so the initial 1997 release of this important session was possible. Backed by pianist Ibrahim, bassist Johnny Gertze, drummer Makaya Ntshoko, and (on two songs apiece) Duke Ellington or Billy Strayhorn, and occasionally joined by violinist Svend Asmussen (who here plays exclusively pizzicato, as if he were using a high-pitched guitar), Benjamin's voice sounds quite beautiful. She performs two Ellington tunes, Strayhorn's "Your Love Has Faded," and nine standards, with the emphasis on slow ballads. The moody music is often haunting and quite memorable.

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