Nancy Harrow cut her first album in 1960, with the Buck Clayton All Stars. Since then, she has made about ten albums, and this reissue, a 1986 recording originally on a Tono CD, is one of them. During her long career, Harrow has not received the recognition that a vocalist of her talents would seem to have earned. Baldwin Street Music, under the direction of Ted Tono, takes one small step in rectifying this situation. The label has been reissuing albums of such fine singers as Mavis Rivers, Ann Richards, and Kay Starr and now Harrow's You're Nearer has been included in the reissue program. In addition to the songs on the original 1986 recording, four alternate takes have been added, providing listeners with over an hour of music.
Harrow comes from the same school of singers as Lee Wiley, Peggy Lee, Jeri Southern, Helen Merrill, and Blossom Dearie. Each of them seem to have an intimacy built into their voice which gives their performances a familiarity that other singers often have difficulty achieving. This intimacy lends a special texture to the vocalists' handling of the lyrics -- a texture that wraps listeners in the web spun from their vocal interpretations. To be effective, however, the arrangements have to center on the voice, not on the instrumentation, and this is the case here, with Sir Roland Hanna's arrangements attuned to Harrow's vocal stylings. It also helps to be backed by outstanding and sympathetic players. Hanna is on piano, while Ray Drummond's bass and Terri Lynne Carrington's drums fill out the rhythm section, all providing world-class support to Harrow. Adding Bob Brookmeyer's velvet-sounding valve trombone to the set was a stroke of genius; he and Harrow hit it off very well musically. On the Ray Charles' anthem, "Hallelujah I Love Him So," Harrow speaks the lyrics for a chorus, engaging in a conversation with Brookmeyer's trombone; Carrington's accented drums and Hanna's piano also get in a word or two from time to time. On "Mean to Me," the voice and trombone create a sensuous emotion that sends shivers down your back. In contrast, things get cute on "You're Not the only Oyster in the Stew." Harrow's debt to Lee Wiley is nowhere more apparent than on "Don't Go to Strangers." The blues are given a once over via "I Don't Know You Anymore," with Hanna's piano tinkling in the background and Brookmeyer's trombone bursting upon the scene during the second chorus. The album's paramount performance is of Hoagy Carmichael's poignant "I Get Along Without You Very Well." Harrow's rendition is heartfelt and personal, without being cloying and maudlin. The snippets of conversation and laughing between alternative takes shows that the players are having a good time at this session.
Ms Harrow is an excellent singer whose work merits far greater attention than it or she has received over her long career. This album is highly recommended.