There are the great artists — such as Louis Armstrong — without whom our lives would be incomplete. But there are other great artists who make so much possible. They don’t play or sing. And they are always loved by the people in the know — but they aren’t always brought to the forefront, aren’t always celebrated for their remarkable imaginations, ingenuity, and love.
One such man is George Avakian, now 95, who has done so much for jazz since 1939 or 1940 up to the present day.
Here he is, in an hour-long interview / conversation with two younger saints of the music, Ricky Riccardi and David Ostwald, at the 2013 Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans. Towards the end of the interview, the 94-year-old Avakian listens to audio of a conversation he had with Armstrong in 1956, resulting in a beautiful moment and a magnificent standing ovation:
We are grateful than people like Mister Avakian exist. He has increased our happiness in so many ways. And JAZZ LIVES readers know how much we owe to Young(er) Masters Riccardi and Ostwald. For more information on George Avakian, see here.
Singer Mary Anne Anderson might not be familiar to you, but once you have heard her sing you will welcome her.
In a world of singers who try too hard to be casual, who affect certain dramatic mannerisms, who draw out the lyrics rather than honoring them, Mary Anne is both deep and light-hearted, and her CD, RENDEZVOUS, is a pleasure.
I was disarmed by the speaking freshness and candor of Mary Anne’s voice and vocal delivery. When she approaches a vocal line, she allows the words to proceed in the natural order (thus the thoughts make sense), gliding from note to note without making a fuss over it (a total absence of LOOK AT ME), breathing in the right places. She sounds like a subtle singer who knows her material but is not in the least tired of it, someone who has important things to tell our hearts without beating us over the head with her own Originality.
She and the song hold hands, delicately yet meaningfully, and proceed lightly along, having a resonant effect on our feelings. Mary Anne is respectful of the composer’s and lyricist’s intentions, and her tempos fit the material (no turning SEPTEMBER SONG into a double-time romp for her), but she is never tiptoeing her frightened way through the Museum of Great American Song, terrified that the guards will throw her out.
Her voice is a simple pleasure — emotionally-charged but never overdramatic, tenderly exploring what the song has to offer us. She scats infrequently, but it develops naturally out of her gentle improvisations. I am not a native French speaker, but her singing in that language seems easy, confident, idiomatic.
But all of this is more than Easy Listening: she has the poise and the lightness of a great musical truth-teller, someone delighting in simplicity. On RENDEZVOUS, she is brilliantly accompanied (in all the good meanings of that word) by the very subtle yet affecting guitarist Doug MacDonald, who never gets in the way but always, like a wonderful conversationalist, offers just the soft-voiced epigrammatic phrase that points up meaning, reminds us of the melody, deepens the harmony, swings out the underlying rhythms. They are a wonderful team, and I have written admiringly of him before.
The songs on this (excellent-sounding) disc range from the familiar I’M CONFESSIN’, AZURE-TE, HAUNTED HEART, IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING (with English and French lyrics), and MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE, to newer songs that run the gamut of situations. Being someone who thinks there is still room for glorious exploration of the classics and unheard classics of the last hundred years, I sometimes grew a little restless with the “newer” songs — not their melodies so much as their lyrics . . . but my restlessness was a very good thing because in ignoring the words I could bathe or bask in the purely delicious sounds that Mary Anne and Doug were creating. I would love to hear her sing IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND or P.S., I LOVE YOU . . . perhaps on the next CD?
Here is Mary Anne’s website, where you can purchase this CD and learn about many of her other artistic endeavors. There, you can hear more, and individual tracks from the CD can be downloaded as MP3s from Amazon, should one like that kind of music-delivery.
The CD has become a good friend on my listening orbits; when it concludes, I always start it up again. That should tell you something.