- Audio CD (February 18, 1997)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Enja
- ASIN: B000005CCT
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,715 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Morning in Paris
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A Morning In Paris
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One of Ellington's timeless ballads, Solitude has been sung by many, but rarely with the simple conviction of Sathima Bea Benjamin here. And it begs the telling of a fascinating story: It was 1963, Zurich. Cape Town expatriates Sathima Bea Benjamin and Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand) were playing a regular gig. Ellington came to town to perform, and Benjamin asked him to come hear her boyfriend play. Cut to three days later: Benjamin and Ibrahim join Ellington and Strayhorn (at Duke's invitation) at a Paris recording studio. He records the Dollar Brand trio, as well an album's worth of Benjamin vocals, first with Ibrahim on piano, then Strayhorn, then Ellington (Duke plays on this track). Reprise Records, Duke's label at the time, released Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio, but not Benjamin's recording, deeming it "not commercial enough." Finally, 34 years later, Sathima Bea Benjamin: A Morning in Paris was released by Enja.
--- JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc. -- From Jazziz
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The compositions are all standards; a couple from the Ellington & Strayhorn corpus, the others a grab bag. Listeners will certainly know them already, a prerequisite for jazz listeners as well as jazz performers, in my view.
The singer's voice is one of a kind. When a singer is our contemporary, or near-contemporary, we will tend to place them in a sociological spectrum. Sathima was, or course, South African, on the fringe of the familiar for Americans. Though I have met many South Africans, I have never been there, and her voice still has a cloudy locus for me. More striking yet, and somewhat disconcerting, occasionally, at least for me, is her frequent use of the glottal stop, or catch in her voice, as part of her definition. It fits her otherwise astonishing presence, strength, and precision, but I dare say many listeners will find it over-individualist.
Overall, though, I don't know that I've heard a jazz singer, other than Billie Holiday, who makes the piece more their own. Sathima cited BH as an influence, I've heard - who doesn't? - but, without imitating her, she has learned the lessons extraordinarily well. BH had just recently died, by the way, when this record was made. How people would have heard this aspect at the time, I don't know.
I heard about this record from Cook and Baker's Penguin Guide to jazz on CD. They gave it the highest marks, though cautioning that Sathima never equaled it again. These fine critics, as always, had several very interesting things to say, among them that they liked the contribution of violinist Sven Asmussen. I wish I could agree. I'm a fan of this musician, who covers a range not covered by, say, Stephan Grapelli, and who made a record ("DE's Violin Session") with Duke, Strayhorn and Grapelli around this same time, a great success to my ear. Asmussen plays on every piece on "Morning in Paris", pizzicato. I must say I wish he hadn't. It's a interesting effect, but after the first couple of numbers, I hoped he would lay out. I wonder whose idea it was? But Cook and Baker liked it, as I said.
A particular note: this well-crafted release is a Japanese import. It has copious liner notes, all in Japanese, aside from the track listings with discographical info. The time when I could have deciphered this stuff is long past. Post a translation on the Internet, somebody.
This recording is so highly idiosyncratic and mannerist that I can easily imagine that many listeners would find it a bit too much of a good thing. By listening to only a track or two at one sitting, I avoid the cloying feeling that I sometimes get from one or another great artist; Django would be another example. Leaving that caveat, I can add a fifth star to what might perhaps seem a solidly "good" record, therefore "four stars" on Amazon.
Most striking to me is the presence of Duke Ellington (the producer of this session, as well as a performer) and Billy Strayhorn on four of the selections; for the rest, Benjamin is accompanied by the quartet of her husband, Abdullah Ibrahim, known at that time as Dollar Brand. For Ellington, 1963 was a particularly fruitful year, especially the recordings from his European tour early in that year. His concert works were performed by European symphony orchestras and compiled as "The Symphonic Ellington"; "The Great Paris Concert" (superb); "Jazz Violin Session" (one of the Maestro's supreme achievements); as producer, a session in Paris with Bud Powell; and the sublime album with Alice Babs, "Serenade to Sweden," which, sadly, has never appeared on CD nor ever been issued in any form in the USA.
by Duke Ellington for Reprise Records in early 1963, A
MORNING IN PARIS is the long-lost recording debut of the
legendary South African-born singer Sathima Bea Benjamin.
Finally found and released on the Enja label in 1997,
the album is a treasurehouse of timeless Music. Benjamin's
haunting artistry is superbly accompanied by a superb trio
of fellow South African expatriates (pianist & longtime
husband Abdullah Ibrahim, bassist Johnny Gertze and
drummer Makaya Ntshoko), ably accented by the nimble
pizzicato violin of Svend Asmussen, with the extra
bonus of having maestros Ellington and Billy Strayhorn
offering guest pianistry on two selections apiece.
Picture all this expressive might simmering the sweet
balladry of "Solitude", the serenading valentine of
"I'm Glad There Is You", and the saddened implorings
of "Your Love Has Faded", and one begins to understand
why this session has been so sought after for so
Hearing this singer at any time is a cause for
jubilation. Few are able to caress each syllable with
such full heart and precise skill as Benjamin does,
and even fewer conduct this degree of mastery to a
Music which utilizes the full measure of their art,
as she steadfastly continues to do over the course
of over 40 years.
Listen to Benjamin draw out the desperate pangs of
"I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good", or bounce us
along into the wistful smiles of "I Could Write A
Book", and feel the healing force of a clarifying
voice; sharp, soft, and strong in what she summons
-and imparts- into our lives...