Audrey Morris (p, vcl), Johnnie Pate (b), Charles Walton (d), Marty Paich (cond, arr, p), Stu Williamson (tp), Bill Pitman (g), Joe Mondragon (b), Irv Cottler, Alvin Stoller (d), Felix Slatkin (strings)
Reference: FSRCD 901
Bar code: 8427328609012
From the early 50s, Audrey Morris’ delicate piano and forceful voice was an asset to any intimate Chicago club —or bistros, whatever be the case— into the wee hours, bucking the current taste for bawdy chanteuses and cultivating a repertoire of obscure, understated material, as she displayed in her two first albums. On the first, “Bistro Ballads”, she provides her own spare, sophisticated piano accompaniment, supported by the sensitive bass of Johnny Pate and the hushed cymbals of Charles Walton, as she brings her soulful style to bear on some untarnished ballads worthy of her skill and intelligence.
On “The Voice of Audrey Morris,” she’s backed by a group of jazzmen plus a superb string section conducted and arranged by Marty Paich. It’s a relaxed, well balanced session on which she is heard to advantage backed by the wholly enticing sound of Stu Williamson’s muted trumpet, while the warm guitar of Bill Pitman and Paich’s ruminative piano engage effectively behind them. She sings a dozen warm standards with uncommon intimacy and assurance, and a quietly swinging approach, without letting the creative tension of her interpretations falter for a moment.
"Back in the 1950s a very special singer emerged on the Chicago scene. Audrey Morris recorded two superb, tasty albums, one for VIK, Bistro Ballads, and one for Bethlehem, The Voice of Audrey Morris, and then did not record again until she released Nevertheless on her own Fancy Faire label in 1984. In between, she continued to perform in intimate clubs in Chicago, and raised her family.
Bistro Ballads - The Voice of Audrey Morris contains her two early albums, and they a delight to revisit. The former finds her in a trio setting where she is on piano with Johnnie Pate on bass and Charles Walton on percussion. On the other she is accompanied by a jazz quintet plus a string section playing arrangements by the pianist, Marty Paich.
Morris had an intimate singing style, with a rich, dusky sound. She was an exceptional interpreter of lyrics, and her articulation made each word understandable and meaningful. Her song selection was as right on as her vocalizing, often selecting appealing obscurities like “Sweet William,” “April Fool,” “What More Could a Woman Do” and “I Go for That.” The more familiar tunes that she performed were always ones that were never overdone such as “Nobody’s Heart (Belongs to Me),” “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” “If You Could See Me Now” and “My Old Flame.” Each of the six albums that Morris recorded is a gem, and here two of them are available on a single disc. Do not hesitate, just order it!"
Joe Lang, President of the New Jersey Jazz Society
Jersey Jazz Magazine (September, 2016)
"I've stopped being surprised by the surfeit of female vocalists that the Spanish label Fresh Sound Records comes up with. Through them, I’ve discovered swingers like Nancy Harrow and luscious vamps such as Sallie Blair. Here, we’ve got from 1950s Chicago Audrey Morris, who sang and played piano in the Windy City for most of her career. These two disparate sessions, one Spartan and one with a big band, display a rich talent that somehow slipped through the cracks.
The 1955 album has her singing and playing piano with the sole company of Johnnie Pate/b and Charles Walton/perc who provide her more framework than anything else. Her voice is strong yet sensitive, with a clarity a la a Johnny Hodges as she burns embers of orange on “Where Are You” and “Good Morning Heartache.” She plays the victim well, sounding convincing on intimate reads of “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry” and even with a trite “Blah, Blah, Blah” she gives it a strong go.
The 1956 album has her in front of Marty Paich’s Orchestra, which includes Stu Williamson doing his best impersonation of Harry “Sweets” Edison’s trumpet on the obligatos. The moods are still of silhouettes, and she walks into the shadows in a dark sheer nightgown on “Glad To Be Unhappy” and “It’s Always You.” Walking into the light during “If You Could See Me Now” and “It’s Always You” she is deft at adding nuance at just the right syllable. You’re going to like this one!"
George W. Harris (July 11, 2016)
-The Voice of Audrey Morris
"This is a quintessential Bethlehem label release -- a smoky, profoundly expressive session bathed in neon tavern light, it's the singer's lone release for the label, which seemed to specialize in this kind of one-and-done snapshot of feminine malaise and melancholy. Morris steadfastly avoids being either sentimental or saccharine, remaining tough even in the face of Marty Paich's soft, sympathetic arrangements. Ably supported by a superb band including trumpeter Stu Williamson, guitarist Bill Pitman, and bassist Joe mondragon, she approaches material like "I Never Mention Your Name," "What More Can a Woman Do," and "I Wonder What Became of Me" with uncommon intimacy and assurance, wrapping her voice around the lyrics like smoke curling around the cherry of a cigarette."
Jason Ankeny -All Music Guide
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