Nancy Harrow (vcl), Buck Clayton (tp, arr), Dickie Wells (tb), Tom Gwaltney (cl, as), Phil Woods (as), Buddy Tate (ts), Danny Bank (bs), Dick Wellstood, John Lewis (p), Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall (g), Milt Hinton, Richard Davis (b), Oliver Jackson (d)
Reference: FSRCD 832
Bar code: 8427328608329
On Wild Women Dont Have the Blues, her debut album on Candid Records, Nancy Harrow showed she was a jazz singer to the manner born, with a straightforward, uncluttered approach and a sweet, unsentimental voice that recalls Mildred Bailey. To that add an easy swing and a faultless sense of dynamics, all of which earned her critic Nat Hentoffs accolade; she is without qualifications a jazz singer all the way.
An all-star band assembled by Buck Clayton, who also did the impressively elegant arrangements, included Claytons eloquent trumpet, Dickie Wellss provocative trombone and fine work by pianist Dick Wellstood in a grooving rhythm section of New Yorks finest.
On her second album You Never Know, recorded for Atlantic, she got anotherthis time unwrittenaccolade in the form of John Lewis, who seldom, if ever, chose to record with singers. The MJQs pianist arranged much of the material, and his economical, delicately nuanced writing and playing produced performances that balance complexity with clarity. His austere settings offer the perfect context for Harrows imaginative vocals, which exhibit the kind of restraint rare for a stylist with such abundant talent. The consistently on-message soloists are Phil Woods, alto saxophone and clarinet, Jim Hall, guitar, and Lewis.
"It's a pleasure to report that Nancy Harrow, of whom I'm reviewing her debut albums, made in 1960 and 1962, when she was 30 and 32, is still performing and recording. In 1990 she did her takes on Beatles songs, but here her main influence seems to be Dinah Washington.
Her forthright style has certainly earned her the support of some major jazz players. On the eight Wild Women tracks, she's backed by Buck Clayton's Jazz Stars, a nine-piece that features the leader's trumpet, Dickie Wells' trombone, Buddy Tate's tenor, Dick Wellstood's piano and Kenny Burrell's guitar. Another plus is that, with playing times longer than was customary then for vocal albums, she sings whole choruses always, rather than 'coming back on the bridge'.
The dozen shorter You Never Know items find her with three groupings, two of which are led by the MJQ-associated individualist pianist John Lewis. I'm not aware of any other instances of John working as a vocal accompanist, but the fact that he recorded with her again in 1981 endorses further her enlightened approach. She pursues her admirable wholechorus policy throughout, but there are some excellent solo spots from Phil Woods, on clarinet, and Jim Hall's guitar. Lewis himself stomps hardest on the best quartet track, a classic blues. Notable too is Nancy's lyricised version of his muchplayed Degrees composition. He also wrote four other good songs for her to perform here."
—Les Tomkins (October, 2014)
The Jazz Rag Magazine
-Wild Women Don't Have the Blues
"Although singer Nancy Harrow made a strong impression with this debut recording, she did not lead another record date until 1978 other than a lesser-known effort for Atlantic in 1966. Obviously the years of obscurity were not deserved, for this set is a near-classic. Harrow is heard in her early prime singing such veteran songs as "All Too Soon," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," the seven-minute "Blues for Yesterday," and the title cut (originally done by Ida Cox in the 1920s). A more modern stylist (although influenced by Billie Holiday a little) than the material she performed at the time, Harrow is joined by such top mainstream players as trumpeter Buck Clayton (who provided the arrangements), tenorman Buddy Tate, trombonist Dickie Wells, and pianist Dick Wellstood. Highly recommended, Harrow's debut date has plenty of spirit and enthusiasm."
—Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
-You Never Know
"Nancy Harrow's You Never Know is as notable for the name above the title as it is the accompanists credited on its sleeve. Boasting contributions from modern icons including pianist John Lewis, altoist Phil Woods, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Connie Kay, this unusually dark, poignant album is as challenging as any vocal jazz session ever issued on a major label, its exquisite melancholy the product of both uncommon sensitivity and consummate skill. Lewis also wrote much of the material, and his nuanced, economical approach yields performances that balance complexity with clarity. The austere settings offer the perfect context for Harrow's imaginative vocals, which exhibit the kind of restraint rare for a stylist with such abundant talent. A great if supremely overlooked LP."
—Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide)