Consuela Lee, piano – Piano Voices (with Sangoma Everett, drums) [TrackList follows] – Mapleshade Records 08332 ****:
This is a quite amazing jazz piano CD by an amazing woman who passed away in 2009 at age 83. It came out in 2001 and I’m sorry I just got around to hearing it. Consuela Edmonia Lee worked tirelessly to educate and promote price and self-esteem through jazz. She taught at many different black colleges and revitalized the Snow Hill Institute which had been established by her grandfather. She founded Bright Glory, a xylophone chorus for which she created original jazz works and arrangements. Some of her many students included Chaka Kahn and Gordon Banks—musical director for Marvin Gaye. She received support for her work in rural Alabama from Odetta, Max Roach and Milt Jackson. She was also involved in the music scoring for a couple of Spike Lee films.
Her 13 tracks of both standards and originals here show why she was described as an heir to Mary Lou Williams and Dorothy Donegan. Her classical background comes thru, as well as the many different styles of jazz, both old and new. One never knows if what one is hearing is composed or just a for-the-moment improvisation. The drummer (one of her students) is very low-key with his additions, and is not heard on some of the tracks. A centerpiece of the album is a three-part suite titled Three for Arnold Tone. Lee’s voicings are always the unexpected, and when she touches on older-style jazz flavorings, it never seems corny but clearly a part of her being.
The piano sonics are also stunningly realistic and natural—better than most piano CDs. The only slight problem is that on some of the tracks Mapleshade’s beloved 1911 Steinway is just very slightly out of tune, but most listeners won’t be as sensitive to that as I am.
Jefferson Street Joe (C.Lee) 4:10
All The Things You Are (O.Hammerstein/J.Kern) 2:22
How Deep Is The Ocean (I.Berlin) 5:24
In A Sentimental Mood/Sophisticated Lady (E.K.Ellington) 4:41
Letter To Chris (C.Lee) 2:34
So Many Stars (A.&M.Bergman/S.Mendes) 4:24
Three For Arnold Tone, A Suite:
Welcome Home (C.Lee) 4:29
Lullabye (C.Lee) 3:02
Discovery (C.Lee) 3:23
Lush Life (W.Strayhorn) 4:52
Dance of the Cripple (W.Lee) 5:47
Prince of Piano–Alphonso Saville (C.Lee) 3:22
Ain’t Misbehavin (T.Waller) 3:15