American Song

Andy Bey

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American Song Review

by Jonathan Widran

The legendary singer's connections to the golden age of bebop -- he performed from the '50s on with legends like Horace Silver, Eddie Harris, Max Roach, and McCoy Tyner -- definitely inform his subtle, low-key approach to the easy-breathing, sensitive arrangements of numerous classics here. The sticker on the album reminds listeners that he was voted 2003 Vocalist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist's Association and that he's "one of the most distinctive singers in jazz" (New York Times). You'll definitely agree if you generally like your jazz slow and soft as sweet molasses (with a few swinging exceptions like "Caravan") and you miss the one-of-a-kind vocal timbre of Mel Tormé. Bey's voice is cut from a similarly velvet landscape, but infused with a richer soul and blues experience. He made his minor legend by focusing on nuance, and the lush, serpentine way he wraps himself around familiar lyrics really demands an attentive listen. The only problem with so many slow numbers and a similar vocal style on each is a blending from one tune to the next. This type of laid-back jazz may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the voice is quite amazing if you have the patience to pay attention to every note.

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