Let me say simply that hearing Terry Blaine and Mark Shane is an honor. If you don’t know their work, I think I might be able to sway a few listeners to share my view.
Terry has one of the warmest voices I know. Her love for the music, for the people and places depicted in it, and for the audience — all come through in the first four bars of any song. Although she is a swinging, lilting jazz singer — she feels that groove! — she is a folk singer in the truest sense, in that she sings of us and to us, holding us in a warm embrace. No tricks, no rehearsed ad-libs, no gimmicks: just heartfelt communication.
Mark is known as a marvelous pianist, someone who has absorbed Alex Hill, Hank Jones, and Albert Ammons — but it all comes out Mark Shane, and we are glad. His touch is delicate, his phrases and phrasing his own, but his swinging roots are deep. And as an accompanist, he is a perfect friend and brother, saying without words to Terry, and to us, at every turn, “Yes, that’s right. Please lay some more of that good message on us. Lord knows we need to feel that love.”
The song I’ve picked to highlight here is a little-known Hoagy Carmichael number from the early Thirties, BREAD AND GRAVY, recorded by only a few people, starting at the apex, with Ethel Waters and Barbara Lea. I’ve added Terry’s performance to that list since hearing her do it in person a few years ago — and this time, she and Mark outdid themselves. On the surface, the lyrics speak of the Depression-era solace one could find when there was food on the table, enough food, and good food — down-home delicacies with enough for seconds. But the song speaks to so much more: there’s “peace and quiet” and “good-night kisses,” which are pleasures that anyone in any circumstances might long for. Or be very glad that they were happening.
(With all due respect to the justly-honored Mr. Carmichael, BREAD AND GRAVY isn’t a memorable instrumental line in the abstract: it sounds to me like an early-Thirties riff, rather like Fats’ CAN’T WE GET TOGETHER. Hoagy’s brilliance is, however, in the marriage of those gloriously simple words and the emotions they invoke, conceiving it as a ballad for a singer to linger affectionately on those long tones, and that bridge!)
To me, this performance, for a few minutes, creates a homespun ideal of a world — where no one’s hungry, bereft, or alone — shining and tangible. What a great gift to be invited into that universe and to be comforted by it.
As we were at the Saugerties United Methodist Church, Saugerties, New York, April 30, 2017:
Soul food? Beans and bacon, certainly. But a large helping of the gentle feelings that nourish our inner selves. And as one who revels in the possibilities of making something evanescent stay around longer through videography, I know I’ve gone back and back to the Blaine-Shane kitchen for more. Thank you, Terry and Mark, for feeding us so well.
May your happiness increase!