Fred Hersch remembered Andy Bey’s 1970s work with Horace Silver when he asked Bey to perform on his Ballads
album, and then on to his Nonesuch tribute to Billy Strayhorn, Passion Flower.
And then, after disappearing for 20 years, that was the start of the rediscovery of Andy Bey’s talent, not only just as a distinctive baritone quite unlike any other singer, but also as an accomplished pianist, after his fading from the scene for 20 years. Now considered one of the most respected of the jazz singers from the 1950s and 1960s, along with the likes of Shiela Jordan and Mark Murphy who also continue to mentor emerging vocal talent Bey enjoyed his first broad public exposure as part of a family trio with his sisters, Salome and Geraldine. Hersch was aware of their work in the sixties, and even though Andy and the Bey Sisters recorded but three albums, those who heard them remembered them, as did Hersch, after Lambert Hendricks & Ross paved the way for many jazz vocal groups to follow.
Andy and the Bey Sisters had a unique sound, perhaps because of the meshing of personalities aurally evident in their voices. Salome had an affinity for the blues and was given parts appropriate to her feelings; Geraldine couldn’t help but evince a fondness for show tunes and their resulting melodic viability; and Andy’s interest was in jazz, perhaps due to his abilities as a pianist from which he developed the chord changes and vamps of the trio’s arrangements. The sequence of tracks for Andy and the Bey Sisters’ last album, ’Round Midnight,
no doubt was determined after great care. The opening "Love Medley" not only showcases each member’s vocal strengths; it also provides early examples of Bey’s accompanying reharmonization such as his changes after "just let me throw" in "Love Is Just Around the Corner" or his putting-the-listener-at-ease introduction that have become familiar to his listeners. Salome belts out "Love Is Just Around the Corner" with irresistible force, followed by Geraldine sweetly singing "I Love You" as if to a single person, and then
followed by Andy borrowing from his jazz roots by contributing Duke Ellington’s "Love You Madly." The Beys end the medley with a show-stopper that stresses the "love you!" [followed by double triplets for emphasis] and combines all of their voices for a madly wailing finish.
More than their dramatic call-and-response endings, through, the group seems to be remembered for its soulfulness, obviously present in "God Bless the Child," and its joyousness expressed in songs like the finger-snapping "Hallelujah, I Love Her So." And so, except for the unfortunate inclusion of "Tammy" from Debbie Reynolds’ and Leslie Nielsen’s Tammy and the Bachelor
as a vehicle for Geraldine, ’Round Midnight
veers between the two sensibilities of bluesiness and celebration. On the one hand, "’Round Midnight" and "Solitude" utilize the Beys’ unique voicings to investigate the depths of loneliness and darkness, leaving no doubt about their understanding of the emotions evoked by the songs. At the same time, their richness and familial closeness helps them claim the songs as their own as they invest them with their own shared feelings. But then "Squeeze Me" and "Everybody Loves My Baby" invite listeners to have a good time, not just with the felicity of Andy’s quotes during the rests but with the unified way the trio pushes the beat as on "Hallelujah, I Love Her So." While one gets to enjoy Andy’s scatting in the middle section of that song, I always enjoy the way they stylize a song, as Salome holds out a note for Geraldine and Andy to fill in their own lines under it, as if in a gospel meeting. And while the trio clips and bends its notes on "Everybody Loves My Baby," providing their own accents over Milt Hinton’s walking bass, I always listen for Salome’s up-slide of a final note, a subtle flourish as on "Squeeze Me" over Andy’s tremolo that adds character to the interpretation.
Further proof of the forethought about track sequence occurs when Andy and the Bey Sisters end ’Round Midnight
with a solemn, meditation, understated version of "Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye," appropriately enough. This was the last recording of Andy and the Bey Sisters. Geraldine moved to Chicago three years later, where she had married bassist Eddie DeHaas and provided the stimulus for the Chicago Jazz Festival. Salome moved to Toronto before ’Round Midnight
was even released, and she became active in the entertainment scene there. And Andy? We know what happened to him of late, as he has rightly been re-appreciated for his individual talents.
Not surprisingly, Rudy Van Gelder was the engineer who captured the vocal projection of these family singers and transferred their personalities to vinyl at the time, not to mention adding the haunting occasional reverb behind Salome’s high notes on "Love Is Just Around the Corner." Now, Van Gelder has also digitally upgraded the album as part of Concord Music Group’s initiative to re-release enhanced versions of classic Prestige albums produced by Bob Weinstock. While it’s fortunate that the Rudy Van Gelder Remasters
makes available once again acknowledged jazz classics like Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus,
it is also a delight to rediscover such forgotten masterful performances as those on Andy and the Bey Sisters’ ’Round Midnight,
which previously hadn’t been available on CD.