Stallings, Mary – Dream – High Note HCD 7212, 49:16 *****:
(Mary Stallings – vocals; Eric Reed – piano & arrangements; Hamilton Price – bass; Ralph Penland – drums; Adriana Evans – vocals with Mary Stallings on duet Never Knew)
Dream is an interesting vocal collection of familiar songs. The album is arranged with the order of songs in a way that left me thinking of an intimate club setting without audience noise. The first song out had me thinking this is going to be great.
Mary Stallings was born and raised in San Francisco which has a very rich background in many genres of music. Mary was a gospel singer at her church. She performed a little R&B with Louis Jordan. Mary was later influenced into following jazz singing by family members who were in the jazz scene. She began singing in bay area clubs while still in high school. She sang in some well known venues such as The Hungry I, The Purple Onion and others. One of the first albums I can recall was Mary teamed up with Cal Tjader, popular vibraphonist in 1961. She has been associated with many of the best in jazz including a tour in 1965 and 1966 with Dizzie Gillespie and his band in South America. Mary did a three year stint as vocalist with the Count Basie Orchestra from 1969 to 1972. She has taken some time out periodically through the years but came back to singing and as we can hear has blessed us with more of her great talent.
Eric Reed began playing piano at age two in Philadelphia, PA. Eric began formal study in piano at age seven. He continued his studies in Los Angeles. In 1986 at age 18 Eric toured with Wynton Marsalis. Eric has worked with jazz personalities such as Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Cassandra Wilson, Clark Terry, Dianne Reeves and others.
Adriana Evans is an R&B vocalist. She was born in San Francisco and had heavy influences in jazz growing up with her mother Mary Stallings. Her godfather is saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. She has recorded some singles that have charted on the singles list in R&B..
The album starts with Close Enough for Love, a Johnny Mandel-Paul Williams tune. A slow piano entry then Mary comes in with a slow moving vocal. The rhythm suddenly picks up and shifts back and forth in rhythm with some cool jazz and really sets the mood for this album. Harold Arlen’s That Old Black Magic comes next. Mary interprets it in a slow foxtrot ballad that you want to grab your honey and slow dance to. Mary goes into a slow waltz tempo version of Artie Shaw’s Moon Ray that is very pleasant. I Never Knew changes rhythm into a Latin beat and is up tempo. Mary is joined by daughter Adriana Evans about 2/3rds through the song with a key change and Adriana’s R&B voice comes through.
A Weaver of Dreams by Victor Young and Jack Elliot is an upbeat number reminiscent of the 40’s and has been well covered by many jazz instrumentalists and vocalists. Mary’s version of this is wonderful and I kept getting a vibe, and realized how much her phrasing and emphasis reminded me of Carmen McRae. Mary changes up the rhythm with a slow ballad style on Noel Coward’s Mad About the Boy. Dream Dancing, a Cole Porter tune comes through with a very upbeat foxtrot. Mary becomes intimate with a wonderful interpretation of Hey Now. It brought tears of appreciation for her interpretation on this nice tune. A catchy change up in rhythm comes with Watching You Watching Me that is delightful and swings. Before You Know It is a short message about chasing the blues away. Sure enough, I felt better for hearing it. The final song of this album is precious. A Timeless Place is a reflective, bluesy vocal to the instrumental song The Peacocks (Norma Winstone/Jimmy Rowles-composers). There is a pattern of notes that is challenging to the best vocalists. I have heard it done well by a few other vocalists as well as instrumentalists. Mary does it to perfection. Her voice on this grabs you with sort of a film-noir feeling which aptly fits this album: Dream.
Dream is well worth listening to. The quality of performance of the players is wonderful. The album was produced by Eric Reed, the pianist. Recording was at Firehouse Recording Studio in Pasadena, California, April 2010.
TrackList: Close Enough for Love, That Old Black Magic Called Love, Moon Ray, Never Knew, A Weaver of Dreams, Mad About the Boy, Dream Dancing, Hey Now, Watching You Watching Me, Before You Know It, Timeless Place (The Peacocks)
— Tim Taylor