This new release by Maxjazz should be on the racks by the time you read this. Vocalist Asa Harris appears in duo, quartet and quintet combinations with other Chicago musicians including Ray Kennedy and Kim Portnoy sharing piano duties. Tom Kennedy handles the bass, while Rick Haydon and Todd Strait appear on guitar and drums.
This wonderful singer comes from a colorful background when one considers that she is the daughter of jazz musician Ace Harris and niece of the legendary bandleader Erskine Hawkins who was once billed as the "20th Century Gabriel". Hawkins composed "Tuxedo Junction". His version of Avery Parrish's "After Hours" is the recording by which all other versions are measured.
'Nuff said about genealogy! Asa is a great jazz singer and although she sings the relatively simple "Tuxedo Junction", the other songs on the CD are difficult for anyone. Witness - Jitterbug Waltz, Daydream (strayhorn/ellington), Love For Sale. Thirteen great standards are here for your enjoyment.
Asa Harris demands your attention. Does she sound like Sarah, Ella, Carmen? Nope! She sounds like a mature jazz vocalist cutting her own trail.
I never thought for a moment that I would ever hear another woman equal the late Lee Wiley's rendition of "Someone To Watch Over Me" but I'm now a little undecided. Can she scat? Absolutely! Listen to the swinging "Tuxedo Junction".
While I'm singing the praises of Asa Harris, I can't ignore the two outstanding pianists on the session. This is a pair to watch. Ray Kennedy and Kim Portnoy are absolute masters of the instrument.
As always, Maxjazz places a nice video track on each release. I feel this really puts the listener in touch with the performer. Nothing elaborate. Just a shot in the recording studio with some artificial plants in the corner, but it does the trick.
If you get the impression that I love this record, you are quite correct. If you don't like vocals, you can buy it for the pianists!