BEV KELLY in Person
recorded ‘live’ at The Coffee Gallery, San Francisco
Bev Kelly (vcl) acc by Pony Poindexter (as) Flip Nenez (p) Johnny Allen (b) Tony Johnson (drs)
'live' at The Coffee Gallery, San Francisco; October 14, 1960
Long ago And Far Away (2:57) (I. Gershwin- Kern)
Then I'll Be Tried Of You (4:04) (Harburg – Schwartz)
My Foolish Heart (2:50) (Washington – Young)
Night And Day (2:45) (Cole Porter)
It Never Entered My Mind (3:21) (Rodgers and Hart)
Just Friends (3:21) (Lewis – Kleener)
Body and Soul (4:23) (Heyman – Sour – Green)
Love Letters (3:43) (Heyman – Young)
This Is Always (3:41) (Gordon – Warren)
Falling in Love with Love (2:36) (Rodgers and Hart)
My Funny Valentine (4:54) (Rodgers and Hart)
On this “in person” album, an extraordinarily warm and appealing young singer really comes alive.
BEV KELLY, as her performance here should make quite clear, is a vocalist who possesses more than a fair share of such valuable and uncommon basic qualities as taste, freshness and the power to communicate with real emotional impact. Her voice is a clear, vibrant, controlled instrument; she possesses that essential ability of the best jazz artists to swing at all times, no matter what the tempo. During the course of a still very young career, she has developed a highly personal style; and here – aided by a most sympathetic group of accompanists and encouraged by a fully appreciative audience – she should appear to have gathered her assets together to create a consistently moving and exciting record.
If all this seems to suggest a strong prejudice here in favor of Miss Kelly, that’s just about the size of it. And this writer feels free to express all-out enthusiasm for this “live” effort for the rather inverse reason that he began by having large doubts about the whole idea of doing the album under these circumstances, and really had to be talked into it by Bev (whose non-musical qualities, we can assure you, include an inability to be stopped when she is sure she’s right).
We at Riverside have developed a considerable fondness for on-the-spot club recordings, with their vast potentials for spontaneity and audience-reaction excitement, and some of the label’s most successful albums have come into being under such circumstances. Nevertheless, there was a feeling that what would do for instrumental groups would not necessarily work out with a singer. Vocal records, as a rule, call for much careful preparation, for scrupulously detailed arrangements, substantial numbers of accompanying musicians, flawless studio sound and many retakes to get things precisely right. But what’s the good of having rules unless they can be broken once in a while? And it was Bev Kelly’s argument that, in place of all those ‘proper’ conditions, the record date she wanted to do had a whole batch of quite different and at least equally important factors in its favor.
She had been singing for some months in the thoroughly relaxed atmosphere of The Coffee Gallery, a high-ceilinged beer-wine-and-coffee spot located near San Francisco’s Broadway night club belt. It was a club whose owner had only recently rescued it from the beatnik trade by inaugurating a jazz policy. Working regularly with a quarter led by West Coast altoist Pony Poindexter, Bev felt she had established an unusually strong musical rapport with the group – and particularly with its pianist, Philliines-born “Flip” Nunez, who remarkably sensitive accompanist. In addition, during her stint at the Gallery, Bev had built for herself a fervent and loyal following. It was her contention that the combined circumstances of the club, its audience and these musicians had gotten her into something impossible to reproduce under formal recording-studio conditions, that she was at the best in this room, and why not try it?. . .
En route to Los Angeles for a recording trip, I agreed to stop first in San Francisco to hear Bev in the setting that had so stirred her enthusiasm. I walked, somewhat reluctantly, into a barn-like, unprepossessing room – and left promising to return in a week to record. Bev Kelly in the coffee Gallery was indeed impressive. But doubts die hard, and I was quite prepared to spend two full nights taping in the club – and then to evaluate the results.
But on Friday night, October 14, 1960, Bev rose to the challenge in sensational fashion. The eleven numbers heard here were selected only with difficulty from fifteen she sang between 10 P.M. and 2 A.M.; and although she did repeat some tunes during the evening (mostly because our engineer had some doubts about the recording balance during the first set), all but three of the tracks here are first takes. Not once during the evening did Bev fluff a lyric or her accompanists miss a cue. There was obviously no need to record the next night. It was, in all, a brilliant effort, and I think part of Bev’s joy in realizing that she was accomplishing so well the task she had so confidently insisted on attempting.
The repertoire includes the work of some of the country’s best songwriters – among them a Ker, a Porter and no less than three by Rodgers and Hart. The tempos cover a full range from ballad through lightly-swinging up to a couple of driving items like Falling in Love with Love and Long Ago and Far Away. But in all cases Bev Kelly is in command of the situation: projecting her own warm, intimate, personal appeal; including in such individual and notably appealing devices as that of running from husky throatiness to full-voiced clarity of tone within the space of a single phrase; bending notes when it shrikes her as being called for, but never distorting the meaning or mood of the lyrics and never failing to hit her notes right on the head when she sets out to do so. The ‘in person” quality of the album is underlined by crowd sounds and applause, and by retaining some of Bev’s informal spoken introductions (including the brief tribute to Billie Holiday that leads into Body and Soul).
Bev Kelly, Ohio-born and still in her mid-twenties, worked mainly in the Chicago area in the late ‘50s, first with the Pat Moran Quartet and then on her own. She was first heard on Riverside on Love Locked Out (RLP 328 and Stereo 1182). And the message of this second album would seem to be that the vibrant, warm and swinging Miss Kelly is now fully ready to take her place in the front ranks of today’s jazz-oriented singers.
Produced and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN KEARDOFF
Back-liner photograph by JIM MARSHALL
Recording Engineer: WALLY HERDER
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.