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Andy Bey
Ballads, Blues & Bey,  Evidence CD ECD-22162-2, 1996 (69:41)

 Serene standards from a master jazz singer

What a model of restraint. Andy Bey can do it all as a jazz singer but on this, the first U.S. album under his name in over twenty years, he resists the temptation to show us everything. (Do you suppose the long lapse in recording a talent like this is due to the fact that he is gay? Probably not - the U.S. record industry is capable of ignoring straight talent just as thoroughly.) Here is an intimate solo recording, in which Bey accompanies himself on piano on some classic jazz standards. The mood throughout is contemplative and low-key, like an after-hours set when the drummer and horn players have already packed it in for the night.

Working with his sisters as Andy and the Bey Sisters in the late ’50s and ’60s, and with Pharoah Sanders, Horace Silver and Gary Bartz in the ’70s and ’80s, Bey usually used the full range and power of flexible baritone. (Good luck finding  any of the recordings he made with these groups!) His voice is a wonderful– sexy–instrument, and in spite of the fact that he is now well into his fifties, it has lost none of its captivating tone over the years. On this album, he uses both his extraordinary falsetto and his rich baritone, moving seamlessly from one to another to cover what sounds like well over three octaves on some songs. In this, he may remind you of some of the great soul/gospel singers like Al Green, but keep in mind Bey is whispering, not shouting.

You can get a pretty good idea of the nature of the album by reading the song titles. We’ve got Ellington, Gershwin, Porter, Kern and other masters on hand. Although the album title promises both ballads and blues, the only song here in pure blues form is Ellington’s "I Let a Song Go out of My Heart." But the blues feel is here, especially in Bey’s piano playing, where he sometimes hits a cluster to emphasize a bluesy chord. It’s the ballad singing that really makes this album special, though. Most of the songs are taken at a slow tempo, and Bey makes the most of each note. This is old-fashioned torch singing, not heard much nowadays. Certainly, I have not recently heard a singer brave such an  exposed album. Every nuance of Bey’s soft murmuring is captured up close and personal; there is no room for a flub. (The recording is very clear.) He clearly loves these songs, these melodies, and caresses each one both vocally and in his tasty piano solos. There is something special about singers who also play the piano well enough to accompany themselves, so that the voice and piano work as one. That magic is very evident here.

If you can’t stand the idea of an album that doesn’t rock (as opposed to swing, which, even at the slow tempos, Bey does here), then you might as well stay away. But if you appreciate, say, Billie Holiday singing sweet and low, you will probably enjoy this jewel very much.– Glenn Brooks


Andy Bey, vocals and piano.


Produced by Herb Jordan. Recorded by Carl Seltzer on May 19 and 20, 1995, at Carl Seltzer Studios, New York City.

song titles

Someone to Watch over Me • You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To • I Let a Song Go out of My Heart • In a Sentimental Mood • Willow Weep for Me • Yesterdays • If You Could See Me Now • I’m Just a Lucky So and So • Day Dream • Embraceable You

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.