Andy Bey ‘Pages From An Extraordinary Life’ (High Note) 4/5

andy-beySinger-pianist Andy Bey has in recent times finally received his due with a Grammy nomination for his 2013 album ‘The world according to Andy Bey’ and this comes after a lengthy career that began in the 1960s singing with his two sisters before he went solo and performed alongside Gary Bartz, Horace Silver and even Archie Shepp. His latest release takes matters a step further with a stripped down instrumentation to just voice and piano and is an absolute treat. The album is conceived like a book and is divided up into four parts, each playlist containing a combination of philosophical and/or romantic elements. Indeed Bey sets out to explore the roots of American song with composers of the calibre of Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, the Gershwin brothers and Billy Strayhorn showcased alongside some of his compositions. The new originals fare well and are designed both to provide wisdom for the listener and entertain and succeed on both counts. It is the vulnerability of Bey’s baritone voice that comes shining through on ‘Good morning heartache’ and Billie Holiday would have approved of this interpretation while for an uptempo rendition, ‘Take the A Train’ is an undoubted album highlight. Bill Evans had a soft spot for ‘My foolish heart’ and Andy Bey conveys the fragility of the song to perfection and mention should be made of his pianistic skills which are influenced in part by Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson. An interesting choice of cover is the far well less known ‘Dog eats Dog’ that Harold Arlen composed. Of the self-penned songs, ‘All that glitters is not gold’ is worthy of attention as is the languid ‘Jealousy’. It should come as no surprise that no less than Aretha Franklin in her formative years in the 1960s used to go out after performing herself and check out Andy Bey who was then singing live in Greenwich Village. That is an indication of how highly the singer is regarded by other musical greats.

Tim Stenhouse