Mark Keresman reviews Andy Bey's "Pages From an Imaginary Life". This album features the vocal and piano stylings of Bey. The contents emphasize the ebbs and flows of romance through Great American Songbook standards, as well as a few original works, all in Bey's baritone vocals.
Pages From an Imaginary Life (HighNote)
Andy Bey – vocals and piano
While also a pianist, it’s as a singer that Andy Bey has established his singular career. Aside from the (early-to-mid-1960s) jazz vocal group Andy and the Bey Sisters, Bey has lent his smooth, expressive baritone voice (with a touch of vibrato) to the recordings of Stanley Clarke, Gary Bartz, and Max Roach. Like his previous HighNote release The World According to Andy Bey, Pages From an Imaginary Life is Bey accompanying himself on piano. Pages… is something of a concept album, a general chronicle of the pathways and pitfalls of romance via a collection of Great American Songbook standards, plus some interesting obscurities (Billy Strayhorn’s “All Roads Lead Back to You”) and four originals.
Bey has a very distinctive vocal style reminiscent of Johnny Hartman (albeit with a deeper, darker tone) and even slightly evocative of Brook Benton. He draws-out the syllables of certain (crucial) words as a lover might caress that certain someone that might be on the way out of a relationship. “How Long Has The Been Going On” gets a gently bereaved reading, as it were a weary and sorrowful accusation—there’s a moment wherein Bay departs slightly from mellow balladry with a thudding, death-knell piano note. I dare almost any listener to find a more unique and/or better version of “Love for Sale,” wherein Bey not only retains the original gender of the lyrics but wails “love” with a more than a touch of gospel-charged fervor. But it’s not all gloom—“Lover Come Back to Me” gets an earnest, hard-swinging (yet slightly wary) treatment. Bey gives the usually jovial swinger “Take the A Train” a wry, slightly reflective reading with some soulful scat-singing.
While it’s something of a cliché, in this case it truly fits: With his stripped-down, bare-bones approach and unique vocals, Andy Bey truly reinvents some done-to-death standards in a fresh, engaging manner. Fans of jazz vocals seeking something truly distinctive: This is a must. (Mark Keresman)