Maxjazz continues to surprise us with their top quality vocal jazz series. This time it's Mary Stallings in the spotlight at the Village Vanguard. Both Stallings and her musicians, coupled with a fine selection of songs, invoke a timeless feeling. The average listener will find it difficult to determine whether this session took place yesterday or perhaps 30 years ago.
Mary has performed with some of the best including Count Basie, Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Eckstine. A San Francisco native, Stallings has delighted audiences in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America. Sharing the bill with some of her heroes, Stallings listened and learned. She took time out from recording in the late 70s and returned later to make several top notch albums for Concord, one of which hit the top ten on the Gavin Jazz Chart.
This seasoned vocalist thrives on songs that are special to her personally and the warmth of her performance is infectious. Her taste in material is unchallenged, as is her choice of musicians. Pianist Eric Reed is a great accompanist and reminded me of the late Frank Ortega who worked with Rosemary Clooney, Kay Starr and Ed Ames and who also wrote the music for "77 Sunset Strip." Add the artistry of bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Carl Allen and the tenor-man Ron Blake and we have a most delicious soup. Mary loves interplay with the sax and piano and the musicians are only too happy to oblige her. These interchanges, in my opinion, are the essence of good jazz. At times, the interplay is humorous and at other times an exercise in virtuosity.
Stallings jumps, warbles and croons her way through a dozen jazz standards leaving plentiful opportunities for Eric Reed and Ron Blake to exhibit their immense solo talents. You can see the entire song list at the Maxjazz website but allow me to tempt your taste buds by mentioning Lullaby Of The Leaves, The Thrill Is Gone, I Love Being Here With You, Sunday Kind Of Love and the beautiful Street Of Dreams. Mary Stallings is an experience to be savored. This album is strongly recommended to all who love good old "no nonsense" jazz