Andy Bey, Diana Krall
January 1, 1970Two stories in the Globe this week: a profile of singer-pianist Andy Bey, who is finally getting a bit of serious recognition at age 64, and a review of Diana Krall's Tuesday night performance at FleetBoston Pavilion. (A handful of new Abe pics, too, from his Father's Day naming ceremony on the Cape -- but those you'll have to look up online.)
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Getting his due
Veteran singer-pianist Andy Bey finally steps into the spotlight
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | June 25, 2004
It was a long time coming, but Andy Bey is finally getting a little popular recognition as one of jazz's preeminent male vocalists — a development that some, Bey included, believe would have come along more quickly were the singer-pianist not black and political.
"A lot of these things coming out of me I was doing 20 or 30 years ago," says Bey, 64, by phone from his Manhattan apartment. "I just didn't have the recording opportunity."
Bigotry, he is convinced, had much to do with his going 22 years between albums under his own name. Music-industry executives shied away from Bey after his racially conscious work with saxophonist Gary Bartz in the late '60s and early '70s.
"I don't want to sound like I'm racist," Bey says, "but [record companies] always want a great white hope. Anybody that's white and got some talent, they're going to really push them to the hilt." Bey, meanwhile, toiled in obscurity for years as a sideman.
But his fortunes began changing in the mid-'90s, when a pair of independent producers contacted him about making a CD of jazz standards. Three more such albums followed, and the most recent of them, "American Song," has been getting a wave of attention since its February release.
This month has been especially noteworthy for Bey, who'll be performing at Scullers Wednesday, backed by guitarist Paul Meyers, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, and drummer Bruce Cox. The June 7 issue of The New Yorker included a Richard Avedon photograph of Bey ("I'm not crazy about the picture," Bey acknowledges), accompanied by a mini-profile of Bey that dubbed the new disc "this year's record to beat." Last week, the Jazz Journalists Association named him male jazz singer of the year for the second consecutive year.
That aficionados would admire Bey is not surprising. John Coltrane was a fan, back in the days when Bey was playing piano and singing with sisters Salome and Geraldine in the late '50s and early '60s as Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters. Bey's fellow vocalist Kurt Elling is also a fan.
"He has a unique take on anything he touches," Elling says. "I mean, he's got such a tremendous instrument, so for him to give the attention and the focus to his craftsmanship that he's given it is just really a blessing for all of us."
Bey's four recent CDs have dazzled a widening range of listeners with his lush, breathy baritone, and his Shirley Horn-like ability to slow down the tempo and luxuriate intimately in a ballad.
On sideman gigs with people such as Horace Silver and McCoy Tyner, Bey had always been more of a belter than a balladeer. But that would change with a fortuitous phone call in the mid-'90s from onetime Silver drummer Roy Brooks.
"He called me one day out of the blue and said there was a guy looking to make a record, a no-frills record," he says. "He would produce it himself, but he wanted somebody who could sing ballads and standards, in the style of maybe Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Earl Coleman, or Johnny Hartman. He wanted a romantic balladeer — which goes to prove that I was singing ballads way before people started noticing me."
Producer Herb Jordan, who knew Bey's work from the Stanley Clarke album "Children of Forever," flew to New York to see a solo Bey performance at the Whitney Museum. The set included a mix of standards and originals — "just basically my soft-palette voice, with no forte," Bey says. "So he liked it very much. And that was the beginning of `Ballads, Blues, and Bey.' "
That album, Bey's "comeback," came out in 1996. The same year, he went public about being gay and HIV positive, giving the recording industry two potential new reasons to shun him. Nonetheless, Bey maintains that being HIV-positive has been a blessing in disguise.
"I'm not saying it's not difficult to deal with things," he explains, "but at the same time, I don't have to hide the fact that I'm — I don't like the word `gay' — that I'm different than others, or HIV positive. I'm not wearing it as a badge of honor, either, or trying to prove anything. But it kind of frees you up in a way, because you separate the real from the unreal. You realize the ones who are in your corner, and you realize the ones who aren't.
"It's so easy to be unfocused," Bey continues. "In a way, I'm glad that I didn't make it [big]." He laughs. "Well, I'm not saying I'm making it now. But I'm visible, and I'm thankful for that. There'll still always be issues, but I'm very much into trying to stay focused, not allowing too many things or people to get in my way."
Andy Bey is at Scullers at 8 and 10 p.m.Wednesday.Tickets are $20. Call 617-562-4111.
Steve Schwartz of WGBH-FM (89.7) received the Jazz Journalists Association Award for excellence in broadcasting at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York last week. His show, "Jazz from Studio Four," runs Fridays at 7 p.m.
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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Krall comes through with satisfying mix
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | June 23, 2004
Diana Krall showed up at FleetBoston Pavilion to promote her new CD last night looking less like the glamorous babe pictured on her previous ones and more like a bona fide musician.
Dressed in blue jeans and a black top, Krall was backed by a stripped-down band made up of top pros Anthony Wilson on guitar, Robert Hurst on upright bass, and Peter Erskine on drums, whom she sped through an as-yet-untitled instrumental original to start the set, followed by a professional but vaguely perfunctory "All or Nothing at All."
Krall seemed to be having more fun playing piano than singing at this point, but that changed as she began diving into new material, beginning with her cover of Mose Allison's bluesy "Stop This World."
The next song, she announced, was written by "me and a really good friend of mine, who I married" — that friend, of course, being Elvis Costello. "He's happier, I'm angrier," she said jokingly. "It works out in the end."
The tune in question was the "film noirish" title song from the new CD, "The Girl in the Other Room," and it was followed in turn by Krall's cover of her husband's "Almost Blue," a slow, lovely ballad that brought Krall some of the loudest applause of the evening.
Next up was another Krall-Costello collaboration, "I'm Coming Through," which seemed somewhat slighter than the other two albeit moderately pleasant. But it was followed by a crowd-pleasing cover of Tom Waits's "Temptation," which included Krall grabbing the piano strings and tapping out weird, Waitsian tones to end the piece.
Three standards followed, Hurst getting a huge round of applause on the middle of them for a lengthy solo, and Erskine taking his only solo of the night, and a brief one at that, on "Devil May Care."
Then it was back to the new CD to wrap up the set, with another Krall-Costello collaboration ("Abandoned Masquerade") followed by two more contemporary covers, Joni Mitchell's "Black Crow" and the Bonnie Raitt-associated blues "Love Me Like a Man." Wilson, here as elsewhere, contributed an impressive and tasteful solo.
All in all, Krall gave the crowd what it came for — tastes of both the new CD and the standards that made her famous — while indulging in a bit of instrumental fun with her all-star quartet.
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company