March 15, 2004
At age 77, jazz singer Jackie Paris is sailing comfortably on the crest of a career that began on 52nd Street in the forties, when he sang with the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Lionel Hampton. He was the 1953 Down Beat magazine poll winner for best new vocalist, and Anita O'Day and the late comedian Lenny Bruce hailed him as their favorite singer. "I'm a legend, man," Paris said as he reflected on those formative years, when he forged a concept that was to become widely accepted as jazz singing.
In his three-night gig at Gotham's Jazz Standard, Paris revealed that familiar, warm, crusty baritone voice that has lost none of its earthy passion or velvety luster. Paris cooks to a boiling point, and he long ago mastered the art of scatting when the wordless form and bop vocal was still a new musical jazz form that was largely Ella Fitzgerald's terrain. He revs up the rhythm section, forefinger extended, and veritably churns the tempo for the racing travelogue "Indiana," cutting through the changes with keen knowing control and musicianship.
Still in command of his sandpaper chops, he clearly sings for the people, sailing among the familiar standards he recorded for EmArcy, Coral and Atlantic a half-century ago. Those records are all collector's items now, and when he sings the Vincent Youmans' classic "More Than You Know" and Jimmy Van Heusen's "But Beautiful," those years slip away and the Jackie Paris sound still warms the heart of a listener. It's all about concept, soul and feeling, and he remains a master designer of ballad interpretation.
When the trio leaves him alone, Paris picks up the guitar to accompany himself on the memorable Billy Eckstine blues lick "Gee, But I'm Lonesome" and Harry Nemo's picturesque landscape "'Tis Autumn." The latter is featured on a new Hudson CD, "The Intimate Jackie Paris." While he apologized for his fingers "sticking to the strings," he backed himself up with clean subtle chords that supported the intimacy of the moment.
The Paris repertoire is one of remarkable good taste, from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "I Have Dreamed" to Kurt Weill's "Speak Low," both of which are whipped to a whirling pace. Paris handpicked a trio that could bring fire to his galloping charts, and it rises valiantly to the occasion. Michael Weiss accompanies on piano with big fat supportive chords, and the assisting frame is keenly structured by the boldly pronounced bass of Mike Redmond and Jimmy Madison's clean and tasteful drum work.
'Tis the autumn of a career for a legendary jazz singer who long ago paid his dues. He remains a uniquely hip and melodic singer who exudes a great deal of charm and can still swing up a hell of a storm.
Presented inhouse. Opened and reviewed March 11, 2004. Closed March 13. Band: Michael Weiss, Mike Richmond, Jimmy Madison