Magazine article IAJRC Journal

A Morning in Paris

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

A Morning in Paris

Article excerpt

Sathima Bea Benjamin

A Morning in Paris

Ekapa Records CD SA 004

Sathima Bea Benjamin (vcl) Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Abdullah Ibrahim (p) Sveno Asmussen (pizzicato vln) Johnny Gertze (b) Makaya Ntshoko (d). Barclay Studios, Paris, February 23, 1963.

Darn That Dream/I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good/I Could Write A Book/I Should Care/Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year/Solitude/The Man I Love/Your Love Has Faded/I'm Glad There Is You/Soon/Lover Man/A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square. TT 43:05

This was Ms. Benjamin's (1936-) first album, produced by Duke Ellington for Reprise Records, and thus is more of historical than jazz value as she has more potential than realization at this stage. Born and brought up in South Africa, she didn't have the native American language skills at the time for these American songbook selections and this resulted in odd breaks in pronunciation at times. Her voice is pleasant, but she often sang so slowly that the melody just fell apart. The studio didn't help matters by giving all her renditions an electronic, hollow sound, perhaps trying to enhance her projection. Duke and Strays accompany her on two numbers each, all unremarkable.

The album has a mysterious history though - recorded in 1963, but never released at the time because it was reportedly considered not commercial enough by Sinatra, Reprise's owner. Thought lost, the tapes resurfaced in 1996 when author David Hajdu, who was working on Strayhorn's biography, was given a copy of the session that was secretly made by the Barclay Studios recording engineer. Benjamin talked about what happened next:

"I didn't have the money on my own so I went to Enja because I was desperate to get this out. …

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