Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jazzman Billy Childs Revives Music of Laura Nyro

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jazzman Billy Childs Revives Music of Laura Nyro

Article excerpt

Among the virtues of jazz is its all-encompassing versatility. And in the hands of the right artist, that can lead to music that's as inspired as it is unexpected.

Such was the case with "Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro," a 2014 album for which jazz pianist Billy Childs won a Grammy. With a lineup including artists from classical soprano Renee Fleming to post-bop saxophonist Wayne Shorter to bluegrass singer Alison Krauss, Childs reinterpreted the work of singer-songwriter- pianist Nyro for a new generation of listeners.

In a recent interview from Los Angeles, Childs, 58, said he was pleased that the performers and the repertoire came together so wonderfully.

"The stars aligned to make it a reality, so that was cool," he said. The pianist and his band, featuring Becca Stevens and St. Louis native Alicia Olatuja on vocals, will perform music from "Map to the Treasure" on Jan. 30 at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

At a time when tribute albums are routine, Childs said, he was interested in creating one that was truly distinctive. And he had long been a fan of the New York-born Nyro, who was most active on the music scene in the 1960s and '70s. Nyro died of cancer in 1997 at age 49.

Although as a performer she never quite achieved the popularity that critics felt she deserved, her songs were hits for artists from the jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears ("And When I Die") to the pop-soul group Fifth Dimension ("Stoned Soul Picnic").

"A lot of people covered her music, back in the day," Childs said. "But nobody did a retrospective, or a reimagining, of her music."

Childs, who is also a composer of jazz and classical pieces, has been a professional musician since he was a teenager. His arrangement of Nyro's "New York Tendaberry" on "Map to the Treasure" earned him his fourth Grammy.

The idea for "Map to the Treasure" evolved over a period of about 12 years, he said. In the meantime, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock released "River: The Joni Letters," on which he performed songs by Joni Mitchell in the company of singers including Norah Jones and Tina Turner. …

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