I first encountered Mimi Terris late in 2008, a sweetly humble young singer who joined Tamar Korn and the Cangelosi Cards at the Lower East Side music spot Banjo Jim’s. With Naomi Uyama, the three songbirds stood out on the sidewalk on a cold night and serenaded me, Jim and Grace Balantic with an a cappella Boswell Sisters chorus. It might have been SHOUT, SISTER, SHOUT, and we were thrilled. Tamar, Mimi, and Naomi are immortalized on a few videos on YouTube, and the EP CD of “The Three Diamonds”.
Now, Mimi has released her debut CD: it is just wonderful throughout. It’s not simply the winning purity of her voice; it’s the depth of her emotions and the wide range of her musical affections — from gutty Bessie Smith to floating sweet lyricisms. She can be as light as Beverly Kenney or Blossom Dearie, but she isn’t limited by any one approach. Mimi is classically trained, but she doesn’t sound like Helen Traubel “trying to swing.” Swing comes naturally to her, but so does beautiful enunciation, convincing phrasing, a deep love of both the original melody and the lyrics.
Here she is, with friends, deep in the purple dusk of twilight time:
The CD, THEY SAY ITS SPRING, is just as delicious. On it, Mimi is joined by pianist Gordon Webster and bassist Cassidy Holden with visits from guitarist Jacob Fischer and trumpeter Peter Marrott on THEY SAY IT’S SPRING / WEST END BLUES / EN SADAN NATT SOM DENNA (an instantly memorable Swedish pop song from the Thirties) / IT WON’T BE YOU / LILAC WINE / I GOT IT BAD / ROCKIN’ CHAIR / LOVER, COME BACK TO ME / STAR DUST / ALICE.
Listening to it, a dozen times, I thought of Eddie Condon’s praise of Lee Wiley: “She just sings the melody. No tricks.” But Mimi’s delicate, reverberating art — deeply simple — is even better than the absence of melodrama. Although young, she sounds like a mature artist, offering her love of the songs to us.
May your happiness increase!