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SongSpirit by Sathima Bea Benjamin

SongSpirit is a solid 12-song compilation from vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin. The CD draws from her 40-year career, with material dating as far back as 1963 and as recent as 2002.

The earliest and one of the best tracks is Benjamin's bare and tender rendition of "I’ve Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good." Recorded in Paris, she is accompanied on piano by none other than Duke Ellington. Ellington, the song’s composer, instructed Svend Asmussen to play pizzicato violin on the song, giving the song a unique touch.

Three of the South African singer's original songs are on the disc, including the dramatic "Africa," the flowing "Music," and the anthemic "Children of Soweto," which takes on a hymnal or gospel quality. These numbers offer a welcome change from the standards that are on the album.

Benjamin, 70, isn’t a belter. She works in nuances and is a master of subtle inflections and well-placed pauses. Good examples of this are found on the exquisite "It Never Entered My Mind." Recorded in 1973, Benjamin is joined on the Rodgers and Hart song by her husband, jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. There are times when her voice is barely above a whisper, but it is a powerful performance. It is the disc’s only previously unreleased track.

Noted pianist Kenny Barron plays on three songs.

But, this is Benjamin’s showcase, and SongSpirit shows how good she has been all these years.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Sathima Bea Benjamin
  • CD Title: SongSpirit
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Ekapa Records
  • Tracks: Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life, I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good, Africa, Indian Summer, It Never Entered My Mind, I Only Have Eyes For You, Memories Of You, Music, Lush Life, Children Of Soweto, I’ll Follow My Secret Heart, Loveless Love/Careless Love
  • Musicians: Sathima Bea Benjamin (vocals), Kenny Barron (piano), Duke Ellington (piano), Henry February (piano), Onaje Allan Gumbs (piano), Abdullah Ibrahim (piano), Stephen Scott (piano), Larry Willis (piano), Johnny Gertze (bass), Basil Moses (bass), Buster Williams (bass), Lulu Gontsana (drums), Billy Higgins (drums), Makhaya Ntshoko (drums), Vincent Pavitt (drums), Ben Riley (drums), Svend Asmussen (pizzicato violin), Carlos Ward (alto saxophone), and Ricky Ford (tenor saxophone)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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