BILLIE POOLE: CONFESSIN’ THE BLUES
with THE JUNIOR MANCE Trio and Kenny Burrell
Billie Poole is accompanied on all selections by the Junior Mance Trio
(Mance, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Mickey Roker, drums) and Kenny Burrell, guitar.)
Plaza Sound Studios, NYC; April 11 & 12, 1962
Confessin’ the Blues (3:33) (Brown – McShann)
Them Blues (2:07) (Ollie Jones)
God Bless’ the Child (3:51) (Holiday – Herzog)
I Don’t Worry ‘Bout You (3:21) (Norman Mapp)
Jailhouse Blue (3:42) (Bessie Smith)
Stormy Weather (4:26) (Koehler – Arlen)
The Man That Got Away (4:48) (I. Gershwin – Arlen)
Keep Your Hand on Your Heart (3:26) (Bill Broonzy)
Ain’t That Love (3:46) (Ray Charles)
Alone Together (2:34) (Dietz – Schwartz)
When Your Well Runs Dry (2:48) (Norman Mapp)
Stormy Monday Blues (4:01) (Eckstine – Hines)
This album, Billie Poole’s second Riverside LP, presents this young singer in a role that she happens to believe gives the truest and most effective picture of her – as a singer of the blues. And it’s our strong belief that, after listening to what she does here, a great many people will surely register firm agreement. What she does with this material – all of it either blues or songs that call for a full does of blues feeling – clearly indicates her remarkable warmth and strength and promise.
In the notes for Billie’s first album, I referred to that often-repeated and unquestionably accurate phrase about the blues being the best way to separate the men from the boys (meaning, of course, that the ability to deal effectively with the blues is perhaps the quickest and most accurate measure of a jazz musician’s worth). The point being that the same yardstick serves just as well when it comes to evaluating a singer. I see no reason to refrain from repeating myself here, for the comment is an even more relevant one this time. Little girls and boys can deliver the syrupy songs and the fashionably cute one, but it takes a man or a woman to sing the blues. The distinction has nothing to do with how young the performer might be: it’s strictly a matter of whether or not he or she has the emotional maturity and power to put across this kind of material. And while you can, to use something like the words of an even more familiar phrase, fool a lot of the people a lot of the time, you just can’t fool the blues.
Consequently, an album like the present one represents quite a tough test for any singer. And it is a test that Billie Poole passes with highest honors.
Certainly one very important contributing factor to this success is the fact the her accompaniment here consists entirely of men. No boys – just musicians who know and feel a great deal about playing the blues. What we were seeking was musical support that the singer could feel totally comfortable and relaxed with, and it would be hard to find anyone better to start out with for such a purpose than Junior Mance. A thoroughly blues-imbued pianist whose past credits include service as accompanist to Dinah Washington, Mance has been spending considerable time of late (along with his regular colleagues, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker) working with Joe Williams. The deeply earthy guitar of Kenny Burrell completes what can fairly be called and unbeatable team for the job on hand.
The dozen selections, all firmly in the blues-spirit framework, are nonetheless richly varied in mood and time. They range in age, for example, from a Bessie Smith number (Jailhouse Blue) to three that are recorded for the first time: Ollie Jones’ Them Blues, and two by the gifted young singer-composer Norman Mapp. Among the standards are, not at all surprisingly, two of the best efforts (Stormy Weather and The Man That Got Away) of Harold Arlen, master of the art of fusing blues feeling with popular-song structure.
Among the rest are several closely linked with other singers. There’s a tender treatment of Billie Holiday’s God Bless’ the Child; Ain’t That Love was a Ray Charles hit; Stormy Monday was one of Billie Eckstine’s earliest successes; and those with longer memories will know that the title tune was made famous by the late Walter Brown. Tackling such material could be dangerous; but it’s also foolish for an artist to be frightened away from good songs for such a reason; and these numbers actually turn out to be fine demonstrations of the fact that Billie Poole is very much herself, with her own message to deliver.
California-born, and with a background that includes singing with a family gospel group, Billie has done much of her work to date in Europe, with particular success in Paris clubs. Her previous Riverside LP was –
Sermonette: The Voice of Billie Poole (425; Stereo 9425)
Mance can also be heard in a similar vein, on –
Junior’s Blues: The Junior Mance Trio (447: Stereo 9447)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios; New York City)
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by ED MICHEL
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RS 9458) and Monaural (RM 458) form.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUE PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York City 36, New York