It took decades for Andy Bey to become an overnight success, but in the mid-'90s he was finally recognized as a premier talent, and recorded a handful of finely crafted discs. A true jazz singer avoiding monochromatic crooning, his style is deeply blue-hued, silky smooth but never slick. This live club date at Birdland in New York City was recorded in 1997, around the time of his overdue success, but not released until a full decade later. The pacing of the program is a little up-and-down, which is atypical of the normally mellow Bey. He does sing more than his share of balladic material, and when he does, there is no more patient virtue expressed in all of jazz, his slight
vibrato ruminating and tripping heartstrings. The title track and "Hey Love," the 4:00 A.M. mood for "On Second Thought," and the solo closer "Someone to Watch Over Me" dip into this dynamic, as drawn-out slow and steady as a daily sunset. To play this way may be the most difficult thing to do in music, but Bey is absolutely masterful. Like his parallel performing shadow Nat King Cole, Bey is also an excellent pianist, and a true player of the instrument. He uses modal repetition, off minor incursions, and unexpected twists, energetically scatting and singing on the well-worn "All the Things You Are," and turns up the wick on "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," a tune usually reserved and bluesy, but in Bey's case it's turned upbeat and hopeful. A lone instrumental, "If I Should Lose You" displays Bey's contained energy on piano with his excellent trio. There's no wasted motion, which is true with his music in general, as he completely shuns self-indulgence. He's never afraid to reach out and touch you with his honest, direct, sweet soul. A fine complement to his small discography of studio recordings, this overdue release is well
worth your time and space.