Jo Marie Payton

Southern Shadows

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Payton came to the jazz scene via a circuitous route. For nine seasons, she played the role of the mom in the Winslow household on the TV series Family Matters. Prior to that, she was a tart-tongued elevator operator in the ABC series Perfect Strangers. Payton has flirted briefly with rock, appearing as one of the Voices on their 1992 release Just the Beginning. Regrettably, her maiden album -- with arrangements more suitable for contemporary and urban music, synthesizer-created smooth sounds, and Quentin Dennard's incessant, unchanging and intrusive drum beat -- barely makes it into the jazz category. However, there is some good stuff here. The first cut, "Teach Me Tonight," creates expectations that great things are to follow. Done rhythm & blues style, with alto saxman John Bolivar's down and dirty support, Payton gives her album a rousing kick-off. The Lambert/Hendricks/Ross "Centerpiece" is a jazzy piece with Gerald Albright playing funky sax in support of Payton's swinging rendition of this tune. Unfortunately, the rest of the set fails to meet expectations created by these two cuts. The performance of "What a Difference a Day Made" typifies the remaining material. The tune Dinah Washington made famous is cluttered with synthesizer-generated strings and other extraneous noise, detracting from what otherwise is a decent, upbeat delivery by Payton and a good Stanley Behrens harmonica solo. Payton has an attractive voice with Dinah Washington and Dakota Staton overtones. Hopefully, her next album will find her with better-arranged material without the electronic gimmickry which clutters this album.

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