Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ebony Jo-Ann Please Save Your Love For Me

An unexpected musical surprise is "Please Save Your Love For Me" (Blackgold Production Co.)," the first full-length studio recording by Ebony Jo-Ann, an internationally renowned performer from stage, movies and television who has appeared at theaters and clubs around the world, including being part of The Wiz's National Tour. She reprized her role at a 40th Anniversary celebration of The Wiz. In recent years, she helped launch a blues night at Ashford & Simpson's Sugar Bar in New York. It was at the Sugar Bar she met many of the musicians on this recording including Danny Kean who produced it, played keyboards and wrote one of the five originals.

The original songs are “Just Rain,” by Ashford & Simpson; “Yo Love,” by Irene Datcher; “Nosybody,”  by Miles Jaye; “Glad I Waited for Love,”  by Aziza Miller; and “Burnin’ World,”  by Kean. Songs covered include he cover classics include Syl Johnson's classic “Is It Because I’m Black"; Percy Mayfield's “Please Send Me Someone to Love”; Buddy Johnson's “Please Save Your Love for Me”; Eddie Miller's “I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water”; and the Mississippi Sheik's “Sittin’ On Top of the World." Its a nice variety of material and I agree with Christian John Wikane's comments in the liner notes that Ebony is a stunning song stylist.

Listening to the opening "Just Rain," with brassy backing and a solid guitar solo, her vocals remind one of Denise LaSalle in the delivery of the lyrics . On other performances she evokes other legendary singers such as the late Helen Humes, Etta Jones and the still active Jewel Brown. Her take on "Is It Because I'm Black," is powerful, not simply because of the song's continued relevance. Guy Davis adds acoustic harmonica on the strong "Yo Love," where she sings that the love is like a cooling summer rain. Mike Bowers' guitar also adds to this performance's flavor.

Percy Mayfield's classic (called simply "Send Someone To Love" here) is a marvelous duet with Kean with  understated backing by Kean, Bowers (nice jazz-tinged blues solo here), bassist Larry Ross and drummer Phil Bloom (using brushes). "Glad I Waited For Love" is a marvelous ballad while "Burnin' World" is a topical song. I associate the Buddy Johnson classic that gives this album its title with Charles Brown, although its Bobby Bland's rendition that left a deep impression on Ebony who  delivers a impassioned rendition. It is followed by "Muddy Water," a driving rendition of the Eddie Miller standard with greasy Hammond B-3 from Kean, Bowers in a jazzy vein, and a booting tenor sax solo by Bill Easley. Incidentally the album credit is wrong as Eddie Miller, who wrote and first recorded this, is not Bumble Bee Slim (real name Amos Easton). In any event, this is a fine rendition to go with those by Lou Rawls and Carmen Bradford (with the Count Basie Orchestra) amongst others.

The band sits out the closing "Sitting On Top Of The World," with Guy Davis ably providing backing on guitars, banjo and harmonica behind a wonderful vocal on an unplugged performance. Given her theatrical background, this writer appreciates the lack of theatricality in the heartfelt singing throughout. Ebony Jo-Ann talks about the Blues being part of her DNA, and this exceptional recording is evidence of that.

I received my review copy from her. Here is a video clip with a bit of "Yo Love."

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