York Times review
February 23, 2004
Andy Bey ‘American Song’Andy Bey is an artful singer
and a many-sided one, with three distinct voices in his four-octave
range. Generally he doesn’t rush – like Shirley Horn,
he is comfortable with the slowest tempos in jazz – and
the simmering power of his music sometimes threatens to become
too imposing, too profound.
But the dark, smoky colors of his voice, and its unfailing accuracy
of pitch generally solves the problem. His carefully constructed
new record, “American Song” (Savoy Jazz), puts that
voice in a glass case and on a pillow.
Outside of “Ballads, Blues and Bey,” a remarkable
album of only voice and piano from 1996, this is Mr. Bey’s
best recording in a late-blooming career; it is very sure of itself.
The album’s producer, Herb Jordan, has paid attention to
basic issues of instrumentation; with paul Meyers’s acoustic
guitar and Geri Allen’s creeping, cloudlike horn arrangements,
there is a drive to make old songs sound new. “Midnight
Sun” and “Caravan” use glacial, modified Latin
rhythms; “Paper Moon” becomes a cosmic slow groove;
“Prelude to a Kiss” begins nearly as chamber music
for voice and reed instruments with bittersweet harmonies before
ceding to swing rhythm and an urbane Frank Wess tenor saxophone
As a reflection of its star, the album is carefully paced, taking
its time: not until the third track, “Speak Low,”
do you hear Mr. Bey’s tenor voice punch through the velvet.
This crisp tenor is not so suffused with his bass-baritone’s
low-end frequencies, and its appearance is a startling little
moment on a hypnotic album.