Sermonette BILLIE POOLE
Billie Poole is accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Jimmy Jones. Arranged by Budd Johnson; associate arranger: Jimmy Jones.
1. Drown in My Own Tears (3:18) (Henry Glover)
2. Lazy Afternoon (2:28) (Morross – LaTouche)
3. Sometimes I’m Happy (2:22) (Youmans – Caesar – Grey)
4. Rocks in My Bed (2:43) (Duke Ellington)
5. A Sunday Kind of Love (2:33) (Leonard – Belle – Rhodes – Prima)
6. When You’re Smilin’ (2:18) (Shay – Fisher – Goodwin)
1. This Can’t Be Love (2:22) (Rodgers and Hart)
2. Sermonette (2:18) (Hendricks –J. Adderley)
3. Time After Time (2:49) (Stne – Cahn)
4. Young Woman’s Blues (2:39) (Bessie Smith)
5. I Could Have Danced All Night (1:51) (Lerner – Loewe)
6. He’s My Guy (2:35) (Raye – DePaul)
Sometimes there is no point in being cautious or overly subtle about a situation, so let’s come right out with it: Billie Poole is a young singer very much worth listening to. And she is a singer you surely will be listening to a great deal, starting right now. Because Billie Poole has go what it takes, and lots of it.
This is a singer of rare strength – in at least two senses of that word. Strong because her voice is unusually and compellingly rich, full and powerful. And strong because her appeal is not derived form any vocal trickery or passing fads. It is deeply and firmly based, above all, on that rock-slid foundation known as the blues.
There’s a well-established musical saying to the effect that it’s how well they deal with the blues that is the best way of telling the men from the boys. The reference, of course is to instrumentalists, and I’m a bit unsure as to the most grammatical and politest way of applying this yardstick to girl singer, but the fact remains vitally accurate one. And in neither case is the use of the word “blues” intended to limit matters to the strict 12-bars from. The overall idea is: if you can feel the essence of the blues, and can project that particular kind of warmth and emotional message to your audience – if you can, you’ve got what counts. If you can’t forget it. Billie Poole can.
Since hit sis essentially a matter of feeling and soul and communication through music, there is little reason to get into technicalities and details about it. Certainly not when this album is filled with all the necessary living evidence. Start with Billie’s warm, vibrant and thoroughly earthy version of Down In My Own Tears. Continue with her straightforward and almost savagely sensuous treatment of Lazy Afternoon, a tune most other vocalists think of as just a pretty ballad. These two alone should be enough to make a believer out of almost anyone. But of course they are not alone. They are followed by ten others, in a wide variety of moods and tempos. And whether the number is naturally blues-imbued – like Sermonette, or Rocks In My Bed – or not, Billie’s interpretation usually manages to give it a deep-kind of approach to the song seem not only proper but inevitable. As examples, note what she does with swingers like Sometimes, I’m Happy and This Can’t Be Love, and with a ballad like Time After Time. (It should also be noted that in several cases this feeling is greatly enhanced by the distinctive trumpet work of Clark Terry.)
Although this recording offers the first opportunity for most stay-at-home Americans to hear Billie, the early career of this California-raised singer is actually another of those stories of the artist who had to journey far from home to gain recognition. For Billie Poole is not at all an unfamiliar name in Europe: during the late 1950s she appeared in a good many countries from Turkey to Scandinavia, with much time spent in Paris clubs and n French television, leading to her being “discovered” in Paris by Riverside’s Bill Grauer and her return to this country.
As with almost any young singer, Billie has listened to and absorbed from the best of those who came before. She herself notes that “I admire Ella Fitzgerald, but I think it’s Dinah Washington I’m closest to.” There is also indication of having listened well to Billie Holiday. It should be no surprise to learn that gospel singing was an important part of her background: before venturing to Europe, Billie had been part of a family gospel group known as The Poole Sisters. And ever since first listening to some old recordings, blues-singer Bessie Smith ahs been an acknowledged influence. Billie’s powerful voice can at times strongly suggest that of the 1930s “Empress of the Blues,” and she had much success in Europe with material linked with Bessie. But Young Woman’s Blues, one such number included here, serves to indicate the limitations of “influences.” If you don’t know the original recording, you can easily accept this as a strong, possibly somewhat older-sounding, blues vocal. If you are familiar with Bessie’s version, you’ll hear the connection, but you’ll also be aware that his is no mere copy or re-creation. It is clearly Billie Poole singing, in her own very personal and very rewarding way – and that is exactly what you can hear throughout this album, and what you will be hearing a lot of from now on.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER (Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios; New York City)
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York City 36, New York