Lorez Alexandria (vcl), Paul Serrano, Cy Touff, Willie Thomas (tp), Ronald Wilson (fl), King Fleming, Ralph Sharon, Ralph Burns (p), Jimmy Raney (g), Eldee Young, Earl May (b), Vernell Fournier, Osie Johnson (d), Frank Hunter, Russell Garcia, Richard Wess, Johnny Richards (arr, cond)
Reference: FSRCD 979_2
Bar code: 8427328609791
In 1953, Lorez Alexandria (1929-2001) was already a young veteran of church singing in Chicago. But when she decided to start her professional career, it was as a jazz and R&B singer with the King Fleming Four, an instrumental quartet that would become one of the favorite groups of the Midwest soon after Lorez joined them.
By the end of 1956, in addition to her work with Fleming’s quartet, she began a career as a single, billed as “Angel Voice.” This was an important step for her, as in 1957 it led to the start of her recording career on the King label. For her first album—”This Is Lorez”—she sang with a musical line-up that brought in a different sort of sophistication to the record, shading tunes with moody colors on flute and oboe that perfectly support the singer’s soulful sensitivity and expressive way with the lyrics.
The critics received her with open arms, which in turn led the label to produce, that same year, a second album—”Lorez Sings Prez,” featuring only songs which Lester Young had recorded. She managed to find the essence in each song, its soul, and where there were no lyrics, Lorez scatted, with perfect understanding of what Lester had to say.
In 1959, she recorded two more albums for King, but the label, instead of hiring an arranger and musicians for the sessions, used pre-recorded instrumental backgrounds for Lorez to overdub her voice. She did a wonderful job interacting with them, in some of the finest work by this much forgotten jazz legend. It is no wonder that throughout her career, some eminent jazz critics compared her with Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan or Carmen McRae.
Ringer of the Week *****
"One of the underappreciated vocalists during the era of the heyday of female singers, Lorez Alexandra (1929-2001) had a unique style that successfully mixed jazz and gospel tones. Her long and successful career had her in a variety of settings, even putting out some rich material on the famed Impulse! label in the 1960s. This two disc set finds her in an R&B mood in her early days, and she comes out of the career gates swinging!
Her 1957 debut album features Ronald Wilson’s lovely flute and oboe for dreamy pieces like “Snow Storm” and “Penthouse Serenade” and she creates wondrous atmospheres during “Baltimore Oriole.” A real gas of a session follows with Alexandria giving a fantastic tribute to Lester Young with King Fleming’s driving sextet of Paul Serrano/tp, Cy Touff/btp, Charles Stpney/vib, Eldee Young-Earl May/b, Vernell Fournier/dr and Fleming having the singer dig deep on “No Eyes Blues,” scatting with delight on “DB Blues” and hip as all get out on “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid.” Wish I were at this nightclub session!
Another incarnation of Fleming’s band has John Neely/ts, Russell Williams/b and Aubrie Jones/dr also adding vocals so that the ensemble sounds a bit like Lambert, Hendricks and Ross on toe tapping takes of Count Basie-inspired material such as “One O’Clock Jump,” “Williams’ Blues” and “Stompin’ At The Savoy.”
The second disc has her backed by Frank Hunter’s orchestra including Herbie Mann/ts-fl, Allen Eager/ts, Shadow Wilson/dr and Oscar Pettiford/b for a soulful juke joint take of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and a foot stomping “Love Is Just Around The Corner.” A couple tracks with Russ Garcia and His Four Trombone Band find Alexandria in a Kentonian mood for bold and brassy versions of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” “Just One Of Those Things” and “Dancing On The Ceiling.” The final album is a collection of sessions from Chicago and New York, ranging from sublime trio work lead by pianist Ralph Sharon on a penetrating “Angel Eyes” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” to a dramatic orchestra lead by Johnny Richards on “Long Ao and Far Away.” In between is a tender “Spring Is Here” with guitarist Jimmy Raney in Ralph Burns’ Quartet and a fragrant “Then I’ll Be Tired Of You” with Richard Wess’ Orchestra of reeds and strings.
The liner notes give a sumptuous amount of background info on this important vocalist, and someone did their homework in listing all of the musicians. Because of the limits of TV, recordings and radio, a lot of artists got underappreciated during this golden era. Here’s a chance to see what we were missing."
George W. Harris (September 5, 2019)
"60 years later, it seems strange that Lorez Alexandria (1929-2001) not only did not make it big but is somewhat forgotten today. Her vocal talents were very close to being on the level of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, she had a big sound and a wide range, and Alexandria could improvise as skillfully as most horn players, often phrasing behind the beat. Born in 1929 as Dolorez Alexandria Turner, she sang with church choirs and for 11 years was part of an a cappela singing group before switching to secular music in the early 1950s. Alexandria worked for a time with pianist-vocalist King Fleming’s quintet whose musicians also sang, forming a vocal group. Emerging from that unit, she recorded four albums for the King label during 1957-59, sang with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and recorded for Argo and Impulse. But with the change in popular music brought on by the rise of the Beatles in the mid-1960s plus her decision to spend her key years in Chicago and Los Angeles rather than New York, she was largely off records during 1965-76. Later in life she made a comeback, recording for Discovery and Muse before retiring in 1996.
The two-CD set On King 1957-1959 contains all of the music from Lorez Alexandria’s first four albums plus, as a bonus, four singles that she made for the Blue Lake and Chess labels. The first disc has two particularly strong albums. This Is Lorez has the singer joined by King Fleming’s sextet in 1957 which was a rhythm section plus bongos and Ronald Wilson on flute and oboe, While the opener, “I Thought About You,” has some of the musicians joining in by singing, the rest of the program focuses on Alexandria. On such songs as “I’m Glad There Is You,” “Penthouse Serenade,” “Baltimore Oriole,” and “You Stepped Out Of A Dream,” Alexandria is heard in her early prime. Sometimes she hints at Sarah Vaughan and Ella (she could scat very well), and in other spots she sounds slightly like today’s Roberta Gambarini.
The second album, Lorez Sings Pres, was quite unusual for it iwa a tribute to the songs that tenor-saxophonist Lester Young (who was still alive and active) played. On some songs that did not have lyrics (“D.B. Blues,” “No Eyes Blues,” and “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid”), Alexandria scats while other tunes (such as “Fooling Myself,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” and “This Year’s Kisses”) find her getting into the lyrics. She does not try to copy Young’s phasing except in a few spots. For the tribute album, she is joined by a different version of Fleming’s sextet, one that includes bass trumpeter Cy Touff, trumpeter Paul Serrano, and Charles Stepney on vibes. The first disc concludes with the four singles from 1954-56 with Fleming’s earlier vocal-oriented quintet. The music ranges from early rock and roll to “One O’Clock Jump.”
The two albums on the second disc have a strange history. The Bethlehem label during 1955-57 had recorded music with top jazz-oriented studio musicians that, while complete by itself, could be used to sing over. The State Department was interested in distributing the music to foreign countries for native vocalists to perform with. Some of the selections appeared on a Francis Faye album and two were on a Russ Garcia record. In 1959, the King label (which had bought Bethlehem) did its best to hide the fact that its two recent Lorez Alexandria records (The Band Swings – Lorez Sings and Standards With A Touch Of Jazz) were actually her singing with the pre-recorded tracks. Listening to the results, unless one recognizes the arrangements, it is impossible to tell that she was not in the studio with the musicians. There are solos from some of the sidemen, the balance makes sense, and the singer makes the most of her time during these concise performances of 23 standards, most of which clock in around three minutes. She sings superbly throughout. Four songs have her backed by the Ralph Sharon Trio/Quartet while the arrangers of the larger bands include Johnny Richards, Russ Garcia and Frank Hunter, none of whom knew that they were writing for Lorez Alexandria!
This perfectly conceived reissue, produced by Jordi Pujol (who managed to dig up the personnel listings for the two previously anonymous albums), is one of many gems available from the Fresh Sound label."
Scott Yanow (August, 2019)
-Los Angeles Jazz Scene
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