“Lady Bianca” Thornton has quietly been building a strong catalog of music for the nearly quarter of century. Conservatory trained, and initially a session singer, this writer first became aware of her with a surprising release on Telarc and a strong performance at the Pocono Blues Festival. She has continued to perform and with her partner, Stanley Lippitt, have continued to produce stunning blues recordings and performances that never have received the acclaim they deserved such as the excellent Through A Woman’s Eyes. Her latest effort, A Woman Never Forgets (Magic-O Records), hopefully will help her break through to a wiser audience.
On this disc, she is backed by an excellent band of guitarist Steve Gannon, bassist Henry Oden (of Joe Louis Walker’s greatest edition of the Boss Talkers and who played with countless legends like Percy Mayfield), and drummer Steve L. Eldridge (who adds tambourine) along with percussionist Jon Bendrich. Oshmin Oden (I assume Henry’s son) is on bass for two songs. It is a strong group with Lady Bianca handling all the keyboards, able to rock it as well as get down in the alley with guitarist Gannon first rate in his vintage sixties-sounding bluesy playing. The opening shuffle Lay Down Like You Mean It, displays her strengths with her rolling, rocking piano as well as her marvelous singing with her soulful delivery. What’s nice on He Just Do Me So Good, another marvelous collaboration with Lippitt that celebrates her man, is the jazzy touch in her piano playing with her understated vocal complemented by the spare piano making a superb performance. I’m in Love With You Baby, has a Latin groove as Gannon conjures up Carlos Santana with his guitar as her almost whispered vocal is spellbinding. Accompanied just by her piano, Sweetie Pie, is another blues celebrating her lover who sets her heart aflame, while Ugly Man Blues, has a lyric that Denise LaSalle would be proud of as she talks about her two men, one the pretty boy she sends out to work, but when she wants some real loving she goes over to another’s house, where she don’t want to see nothing but just feel him as they are loving which mixes a nice LaSalle styled rap with a celebration of her good loving ugly man. The title track has a bit of country and church feel as she tells he no good cheating man to get his coat on and don’t ask for forgiveness because a woman never forgets. The only cover is a slow reworking of an Elvis Recording, Heartbreak Hotel, which is transformed into a soulfully shouted slow blues dirge. She has such a way of making new songs of Elvis standards (she previously recorded Don’t Be Cruel) making them almost new songs as well as making them her own.
I could on and on about the other selections, but this is a terrific recording. Lady Bianca is on the same level as other, more celebrated female blues pianists-vocalists that I could name. This and other discs by her are available on cdbaby.com and merit your serious consideration. Her website is www.ladybianca.com.
The photo of Lady Bianca is from the North Atlantic Blues Festival (my memory is going so I do not know if 2004 or 2005). This review origin ally appeared in the March 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 314).