I’d class this album as just what a jazz-inclined doctor would order for the end of a hard day in a hostile office.

Ubuntu Music UBU0165

Elaine Delmar – Vocals; Barry Green – Piano; Jim Mullen – Guitar; Simon Thorpe – Double Bass; Andy Panayi – Flute on one track, ‘Speak Low’

 Recorded January 2023

I have long, happy memories of listening to Elaine Delmar. Her stage breakthrough in the 1970s Harlem nightclub show Bubbling Brown Sugar, was one of the first shows to be decently amplified. Later she sang at concerts in Hampstead organised by the much-missed “jazz angel” David Lund. David was a teacher at University College School, and a fine jazz pianist. He booked top jazz names to perform at the school theatre, and welcomed local residents. He also put on jazz concerts at nearby Burgh House, which had (still has I believe) a fine grand piano and wonderful acoustics. I saw Al Haig there, and Elaine Delmar. Unlike other vocalists with lesser voices, she filled the Burgh room without any amplification whatsoever. Doubtless being the daughter of trumpeter Leslie ‘Jiver’ Hutchinson, and singing with his band, helped her develop natural power.

When I saw Elaine Delmar earlier this year at the Dean Street, Soho Pizza Express, after winning the 2023 Parliamentary Jazz Award for Vocalist of the Year, she was in fine voice. I hoped there would be a new CD to buy. There wasn’t, but there now is and this is it.

Like Cleo Laine until she stopped singing, Elaine Delmar’s vocal skills remain truly remarkable. Her voice is light years better than many singers’ half, or even a quarter, her age.  The Parliament Awarders deserve an award for recognising that.

The album features mostly slow ballads (such as Send in the Clowns) and bouncy lilts (It Might as well be Spring) with no in-your-face swingers. That’s not in any way intended as criticism, just a guiding statement of fact. There’s a Boat that’s Leaving romps nicely.  Tea for Two is a slow glide.  I Won’t Last a Day is latinish and gentle.  Andy Panayi beautifully embellishes Speak Low. Jim Mullen’s guitar does the same for If you Love Me. The songs are mostly unfamiliar rather than well-worn standards. Barry Green’s light touch piano and Simon Thorpe’s rock-solid bass are just perfect. Drums are not missed.

I’d class this album as just what a jazz-inclined doctor would order for the end of a hard day in a hostile office.

Two outro thoughts. One a slight negative and one a wish.

The sleeve note for the CD is very thin on information. Of course, the basics can all be Googled (https://www.elainedelmar.com/bio) but I’d welcome even a little personalised background on the choice of tunes and to the recording session. Was it perhaps done near “live” without the multiple takes and repair editing that makes lesser singers sound as near perfect as Elaine Delmar?

I quibble on this because meagre sleeve notes do not help boring old proselytisers like me who keep banging on about the good reasons to spend solid money for a physical disc rather than pay peanuts for an online stream.

On a more upbeat note, and with theatres now reviving so many old shows, could someone please now consider a new staging of Bubbling Brown Sugar (in which Elaine Delmar starred) with new stars in the ascendant?

Footnote:

In response to Barry Fox’s disappointment that the CD contained little information, Elaine tells us in her own words about the song selection on Speak Low:

‘Most of the songs on this CD have been in my performing repertoire for many years but until now I had not recorded them. I am very fortunate to have had many diverse and highly original arrangements written for me by different musicians that I have worked with closely over the more than 50 years of my career. Now happily working regularly with the brilliant Barry Green, Simon Thorpe, Jim Mullen along with our drummer Bobby Worth (not featured on this particular CD), the guys and I decided it would be a good idea to feature some of those varied arrangements and so this album “Speak Low” came to be.

“Don’t Sleep in the Subway” written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, was a pop hit for Petula Clark some years ago. When visited by Pat Smythe this song takes on a very new life. Pat’s harmonic influence can also be heard in “Send in the Clowns”, “I Won’t Last a Day Without You” and “Yours Sincerely”, all so beautifully and sympathetically interpreted by the band.

This unique setting for “Tea for Two” was created by Bob Cornford and is one of our all time favourites, stunningly played by Barry Green.

Simon Thorpe captured this gentle lilting version of Bart Howard’s little known “Let me Love You” which we first heard when searching through material to feature on an evening celebrating Lena Horne.

Having sung with Jim Mullen for many years now we decided that we simply had to feature one of our favourite duet arrangements, “ If You Love Me”.

The CD title song “Speak Low “was arranged for me by John Taylor, a true giant of the world jazz scene. On this track we enrolled the lovely flute playing of Andy Panayi so that it could be interpreted exactly as John wrote it.

Brian Dee and I worked closely together for more than 20 years and his influence can be very much felt on this CD especially on the titles “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin ’Soon For New York” and “It Might As Well be Spring”.

Simon and I came up with this haunting treatment of “Close Your Eyes” which works beautifully as a bass feature.

“Stars” is the newest song in my repertoire. It was written by Fred Hersch with lyrics by the brilliant British jazz singer Norma Winstone. I was enchanted the moment I heard Norma’s recording of the song, and I immediately knew I had to sing it. Barry and Simon make it magical.

Forthcoming concert dates include:

15 September – Radlett, Radlett Centre

27 September – Scarborough Jazz Festival

12 October – Berkhamsted, Civic Centre

27 October – Sevenoaks, Ship Theatre

29 October – London, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho