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Live at Pearls by Wanda Stafford

Wanda Stafford’s new album pays tribute to the swing era. Songs of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s are set forth in this collection of swing, ballads, blues and Latin jazz, all arranged and conducted by the legendary David Baker.

Stafford, considered one of the Bay Area’s finest vocalists, has a cool and sultry style that shines through, despite some shortcomings.

Hailing from Indianapolis, Wanda found herself immersed in the music from early girlhood, with the likes of Wes, Buddy and Monk Montgomery, Leroy Vinegar, Freddie Hubbard, David Baker, J.J. Johnson, Al Plank and many others. Among her credits: Roulette recording artist with the Bill Russo All-Star Band that included Bill Evans on piano; opening act at the Hungry-I in San Francisco for Bill Cosby, Mort Sahl and Professor Irwin Corey; featured singer at Playboy clubs in Chicago, Miami, London and San Francisco.

On the new album, she adds her own special touch to such jazz treasures as Gypsy in My Soul, I’m Just a Lucky So and So, Everybody Has the Blues and Frim Fram Sauce. Stafford and her group are in synch from start to finish.

It’s a pleasant listen, if not inspiring.

The quartet is in the pocket, so to speak, but the music is routine. If not for the applause, one might not realize it was recorded live at Jazz at Pearl’s, reputed as San Francisco’s last jazz club. The performance occurred during the club’s final days before it closed.

It’s not a bad representation, of course, but the listener may feel like Stafford and company are just going through the motions. Her voice is good, and her command of tone is sharp. Still, the album might have been better if the set were confined to 10 or 11 songs, allowing for more extended solos.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Wanda Stafford
  • CD Title: Live at Pearls
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: W.Inc Records
  • Tracks: Gypsy in My Soul, I’m Old Fashioned, I’m Just a Lucky So and So, Alone Together, Ain’t That Lovin’ You?, Here I Am in Love Again, Lady Be Good, Everybody Has the Blues, I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me, The Music Stopped, Frim Fram Sauce, Blowtop Blues, Bye Bye Blackbird
  • Musicians: Si Perkoff, piano; Michael Zisman, bass; Vince Lateano, drums
  • Rating: Three Stars
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