Most of us, as we grow older, tend to see the voice undergo changes, usually not for the better. Keely Smith, God bless her, thumbs her nose at the marching decades and continues to sound almost exactly as she did during the mid-20th century when she produced a series of smash hit records while backed by husband and trumpet player Louis Prima and the wonderful Sam Butera and the Witnesses.
Prima died quite a while ago, but Smith seems to be building into a second career that could well outdistance the success of her first. Her voice defies time and she seems not to have lost a single facet of her many abilities. The instrument remains unique, with a tone and silky sound that are distinctive and different.
Smith’s new album from Concord Records, “Keely Sings Sinatra,” contains a bountiful array of solid songs first made famous by the sensational Frank Sinatra, New Jersey’s gift to the world of show business. Selected to back Ms. Smith is drummer Frankie Capp and his big band, augmented by a chorus of strings, 33 musicians in all.
To get the listener in the mood, the album begins with an introduction by Frank Sinatra, Jr., whose speaking voice sounds much like his old man’s. There are 18 Tin Pan Alley classics on this CD. Smith does the up-tempo songs with a freshness of attitude that seem to make them her own. And on the ballads (nobody sang ballads better than Sinatra), Smith at times seems to be dedicating her note to her old buddy Frank during those long ago nights in Las Vegas hotel show spots.
And what incredible tunes are included: “South of the Border,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You, ” “Night and Day,” “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “The Music Stopped,” “I’ll Never Smile again,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Angel Eyes.” “New York, New York” (it may have been written for Liza Minnelli, but Keely Smith puts her special touches on a great song), “Without a Song,” “All the Way,” “This Love of Mine,” and “My Way”
This is a very special album that should attract new audiences for a performer whose work has never been less that superb. “Keely Sings Sinatra” is the work of a delightful performer paying a special tribute to the immortal Sinatra. What more could you ask?
Good Stuff From New Orleans
One of the most interesting of the new crew of jazz makers is the passionate trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, who works out of the storied jazz capital of New Orleans.
His new album, “How Passion Falls” (Basin Street Records) demonstrates once more that Mayfield and his fellow musicians are producing some of the best in new jazz sounds. In this album, the listener hears tributes to such masters of the past as Miles Davis. There are tunes that require strict attention, being based on intricate charts that demand the most from the performers.
Mayfield, a mere youngster already has been compared to such seasoned players as Nicholas Payton, Wynton Marsalis and Blanchard.
Mayfield’s group, Los Hombres Calientes, continues to make inroads on the jazz scene. But this new album is Mayfield’s small group, featuring Jazz Sawyer, Aaron Fletcher, Richard Johnson, and Edwin Livingston.
Guest performers include Ellis Marsalis, Donald Harrison Jr., Delfeayo Marsalis and Bill Summers.
The results will please jazz fans who are willing to listen to something different, yet familiar. Mayfield’s trumpet playing is getting better with every album. There’s more than an hour of music on “How Passion Falls” and the album should provide lots of pleasing listening until Mayfield comes up with his next production.
Wellstood in Dublin
I never heard of pianist Dick Wellstood until the new CD from Arbors Jazz arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. After listening to “Dick Wellstood: A Night in Dublin” I can only feel sadness because of the knowledge that no more albums will be forthcoming.
Wellstood, a master of the stride piano, recorded the 31 cuts on this album at a concert held in the 1970s. He died in 1987.
This album contains the most rollicking, entertaining and purely delightful exhibitions of the stride style of performing on the piano that I’ve ever heard.
The tape has been cleaned up nicely and the occasional hiss doesn’t really interfere with anything
Wellstood had a wicked wit and his introductions are not only informative in their discussions of the writers of these songs, but are peppered with off-handed gems of humor that should easily stay enjoyable through numerous hearings.
A note about stride: it was mostly solo piano that followed the ragtime style of the first half of the 20th century. Stride was born in gin mills, bordellos and at rent parties where the pianist had to furnish a steady beat for dancing. This came about through striking bass notes on the first and third beats of a four-four measure, followed by higher-register chords on the second and fourth beats, the left hand arcing or “striding” between the two.
Glad To Be Back
I’ve missed writing “Powerssound” over the past few weeks and I’m delighted to be back. Some of my readers know that my granddaughter Carrie was critically injured in an auto accident in Columbus, Ohio, in late February. It was touch and go for a long time, but with great care from the staffs and physicians at first Grant Hospital and then Ohio State University Hospital, she is slowly getting better.
I appreciate the prayers spoken in her behalf. I’m convinced that those prayers worked. And I’ll never forget those friends who offered words of wisdom and hope. That’s to you all.