Reference: FSRCD 888
Bar code: 8427328608886
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This CD showcases two fine singers who, after starting promising careers, recorded only a single album each.
In similar, intimate settings aimed at both pop and jazz listeners, they showed their sophisticated talents on a series of quality songs. Marian Bruce had perfected her sultry style in the early 50s night clubs of New York, Paris and London. In 1958 trumpeter Clark Terry introduced her to the Riverside label, where she was able to make the most of her warm, strong and beautiful voice on a laid-back, late-night album, aptly titled “Halfway to Dawn”, backed by the superb accompanist, pianist Jimmy Jones, and the subtle, sensitive trumpet of Joe Wilder, with bassist Al Hall and guitarist Everett Barksdale.
Jacy Parker recorded her lone and lovely date for Verve in 1962. Having left her hometown, Chicago, in her mid-20s, she had been singing and playing piano around New York since 1954. “Spotlight on Jacy Parker” captured well the clarity of her voice and her jazz-oriented, musical phrasing. Her style—like that of so many singers of her generation—was marked by the influence of Sarah Vaughan, but her wry, sassy vocals and forward-thinking piano solos are in stark contrast to the prevailing girl singer sensibilities of the time. She is backed by an equally fitting rhythm section, and persuasively supported by Ernie Royal’s insinuating trumpet.
"My obsession with female singers who recorded in the late 1950s and early '60s continues. Today's focus is Jacy Parker, a superb pianist and singer who all but disappeared after 1974. Astonishingly, she recorded only one album—Spotlight on Jacy Parker—for Verve in 1961. What makes this album remarkable is that Parker accompanied herself on piano, backed by Ernie Royal (tp), Don Cinderella (b), Sticks Evans (d, bongos) and Roy James (d, likely when Evans played bongos). The album was produced by Eddie Heller, probably just before Creed Taylor's arrival at the label.
According to the album's original liner notes, Parker was in her mid-20s when the album was recorded. Born Jacqueline Corinne, Parker began playing piano at age 5 and studied with Marjorie Hyams, who had played in Woody Herman's First Herd and then played more famously in the original George Shearing Quintet. Parker then attended the American Conservatory in Chicago to study harmony and theory. At 17, she played her first professional gig. She fronted her own trio, spending her spare time listening to Shearing. "I was playing his things and playing like him," she said in the album's liner notes.
In 1954, she moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music. But her late arrival to the city prevented her from starting a semester, so she applied for her union card. Parker gigged in New Jersey, where manager Lee Magid spotted her and booked her into New York's Left Bank, the Embers, Le Bistro, the Crystal Room, Jilly's and, in Chicago, the Black Orchid.
Parker said she didn't start out to be a singer but it became a necessity because "it was easier to get booked." Parker said she chose all the songs on the album. "Music is something else. I love it. I've played it nearly all my life. How do you make music a career? Music decides that for you. After a while you find you can't get along with it. It's more than a career. It's a whole life." [...]
Parker's playing was exceptional and her singing was even better. So what happened to Parker? How could someone this talented record just one album? Bad management, lousy contacts in the record business or a lack of interest on her part are among the possible reasons. Yesterday, I did a little research to see if I could pick up the trail. Here's what I discovered:
Parker played New York's Gold Bug In April 1964. The she was at Indianapolis's Crescendo that August, at Alioto's Arbordale in Sausalito, Ca., in October and November 1965, in San Francisco at the Sheraton-Palace's Tudor Room in November 1967, at the Rhum Room at Miami's Newport Resort in April 1970, at the Bradford Hotel's New Orleans Room in Fort Myers, Fla., in June 1970, at Waldo's Safari in Los Angles in March 1972, at Cafe Brasserie on the Sunset Strip in April '72, at the Carriage Inn in Van Nuys in August '72, and at the Cafe Brasserie in September 1974. And that's as far as her newspaper gig ads go. Did Parker marry and take her husband's last name? Did she change her name back to her birth name? How could she have pulled the plug on a career in music that was so much of a part of who she was in 1961?
Hopefully I'll hear from Jacy or from a family member with the rest of the Jacy Parker story.
Marc Myers (May 24, 2018)