In a social atmosphere of jazz, one interfaces with people from all walks of life. One such person is the late Robert (Bob) Colley. A friendship was spawned between Bob and I, as he was very helpful in so many ways to so many musicians. Bob had gotten involved with booking a jazz club in Newark N.J. and asked me if I’d be interested in accompanying a singer friend Naima Shamborguer from Detroit. Unfortunately the club decided to discontinue its jazz policy and the engagement didn’t happen. However greater things prevailed, and a friendship spawned between Naima, her husband George and I. The wonderful couple made a trip to my home in Baltimore and after a great seafood lunch at one of Baltimore’s great restaurants, we went back to my home and sat around the piano playing and singing. At that point, it was a no brainer that I would want to be involved with her recording project. A repertoire was decided and over the course of some months, I came up with some arrangements that suited her pure, almost operatic vocal sound. What you hear is a result of this endeavor.
Some of Naima’s Detroit musician friends were chosen to play on this project. Firstly, Marion Hayden, a wonderful contrabassist whom I had the pleasure of working with some years ago during one of my infrequent playing appearances in Detroit. Then there is the great Detroit drummer George Davidson, superb reed specialist Vincent Bowen, Cellist extraordinaire Eugene (Bud) Zenza and percussionist, Greco Freeman.
The set opens with the standard “Speak Low”. We decided to support Naima’s rendition of this song by using an Afro Cuban approach. Included is a wonderful tenor sax solo by Vincent Bowen.
The next track is “Summer Me Winter Me” composed by Allen and Marilyn Bergman and one of my favorite composers Michel Legrand. Here one experiences Naima’s ability to interpret a poignant lyric, and exposes her tremendous range and dynamic sensitivity.
Now we get to the great classic “Round Midnight”. This arrangement comes from a potpourri of many other recordings of this song. There is not much one can do to improve upon perfection but Naima stepped up to the plate and knocks this classic out of the park.
“I Will Never Walk Away” exhibits not only Naima’s vocal talents, but also her tremendous depth as a composer and her ability to combine thoughtful heartfelt lyrics with harmonic melody and rhythmic intelligence.
Conceptually, “I Remember April” posed somewhat of a daunting challenge for us. This song is usually played as an up tempo vehicle for improvisation. We decided that it might be interesting to approach the song the way the composer originally intended, as a ballad. A ballad by definition is a story. The concept of less is more. It worked for us.
“Doodlin” represents our acknowledgement of one of jazz’s most prolific composers the great Horace Silver. He takes us down the path of swing and respect for the bebop tradition. Naima’s interpretation of this song lets us know how important the blues are in her over-all music concepts.
“Here’s To Life” comes to us via my dear friend and singer/pianist, the late Shirley Horn. This very poignant Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary masterpiece, addresses an approach to life, involving taking risk and the joys of love and wishes for all of us to get better. Naima’s performance here hits right where you live, another example of her high degree of musicianship and sensitivity.
“Ms. Sarah” Is Naima’s tribute to jazz’s ultimate diva Sarah Vaughan. It is interesting to note that Naima has many attributes that the “Great One” possessed. Her impeccable sense of rhythm (this is an odd meter 5/4 time) displays that magnificent instrument she has for a voice and precise intonation. Once again, Vincent Bowen’s solo work is absolutely pristine.
“Everyday’s Yesterday” is a very soulful and sensitive ballad penned by Naima. Beautiful harmonic colors and a simple approach that reminds one of two songs on Miles Davis Kind of Blue recording, which makes this track a true standout.
I believe no jazz performance is complete without paying homage to the blues. “Black Coffee” totally fits this scenario. A blues in the absolutely true sense of the word, Naima’s rendition here points directly at the paths connected with a failed relationship.
For all the incurable romantics, Johnny Mandel adds a contribution to this session
with the beautiful “A Time For Love”, another tour de force for Naima. Her voice is exposed in all her pure beauty.
To close out this wonderful music experience, Naima takes us down the bebop trail once again with her rendition of “Anthropology”. The rhythm section once again rises to the occasion with hard swinging support. At the end, Naima leaves us with “Bye”. I am convinced that we will all be hearing Naima again and again with more succulent “ear candy”.
I take this opportunity to thank Marion Hayden, George Davidson, Vincent Bowen, Bud Zenza and Greco Freeman for their tireless, egoless support. And for their talent and unselfish contributions in making this record such great fun.
Special thanks to Mark Nilan for his masterful engineering and to George Shamborguer for his vigilance, support, friendship and for making this possible.