Carmen Lundy has been living in Los Angeles for over a decade but her recent engagement at the Jazz Bakery represented an all-too-infrequent local appearance from the talented singer and songwriter. Backing her on stage, as on her excellent new Justin Time recording Something to Believe In
, was Regina Carter, the very talented and busy violinist. In a week that included a performance from Keith Jarrett at new Disney Hall downtown, Lundy’s dates at the Jazz Bakery were the talk of the L.A. jazz scene.
Ms. Lundy ended up in Los Angeles for reasons that have a lot to do with her other career in acting. "I was in L.A. to visit some friends," she told me from her home in Woodland Hills, "And my agent wanted me to try out for a television pilot. I didn’t want to do it, but they just insisted that I go to the audition. The role was for a woman in her 50s, who weighed about 250 pounds-I weighed about 135 and was in my thirties. I didn’t see it, but I went to satisfy my agent. Somehow I got the part on the show, along with a very young Savion Glover, who was all of sixteen or seventeen at the time. The show didn’t get picked up, but I think of that as a blessing in disguise, since it’s allowed me to pursue my career in jazz."
On her association with Ms. Carter, Carmen explained that it stemed from the mutual esteem the two performers hold each other in. "Regina was in a group that covered my song ‘Never Gonna Let You Go,’and I liked their version so much I started doing their arrangement of it," Ms. Lundy told me. "I met her when she came to one of my gigs in New York. So, we enjoy one another’s music and I approached her about being a gues artist on the record. Next thing you know-and with her busy, busy schedule-we were able to arrange these shows. It was just a great set of circumstances that we were able to work together."
The new album is a mix of original songs and standards the latter group including a great version of "Windmills of Your Mind" featuring excellent soloing from Carter and a fresh reading of "I Loves You, Porgy." Released in the year of Nina Simone’s death, I was wondering if there was in any way intended as a tribute to a woman who had sung it so famously. "A lot of people think of Nina Simone’s version of the song, but there have been many great renditions of that song," she reminded me. ‘Billie Holiday made a great recording of it. ‘Porgy’ is a song that I’ve been doing for a while, one that I come back to every few years. I did the song a few years ago on opening night at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (in London) when our bass player was delayed getting to the performance, just myself and the piano player. It was very well received, so when we were there this year we did it again. And, as it happened, I was told about her death that night when I left the stage. So I’d say it was more of a coincidence than anything."
Whether you were able to catch Carmen at the Jazz Bakery or not, you owe it to yourself to pick up Something to Believe In
. From the classic sounding original that gives the album it’s name to her wildcard cover of "Moody’s Mood for Love," Carmen turns in a satisfying set. Regina Carter is the icing on the cake. Already responsible for one of the year's top jazz releases in her own Paganini: After a Dream
, her performance on this CD will help ensure its place on many year end lists as well.
Upcoming in Los Angeles:
Surely the biggest event on the horrizon is the reopening of Catalina's in its new location on Sunset Boulevard. Ahmad Jamal will inagurate the new venue on December 2nd and stay through the 7th. Valley area jazz fans should circle November 29th on their calendars, when sax great Plas Johnson will be performing at Charlie O's. Spaghettini's in Seal Beach offers the one-two punch of the Al Williams Jazz Society (featuring one of L.A's best kept secrets, saxophonist Charles Owens) on the 29th and the always great Poncho Sanchez on the 30th.