Poet In New York (Go Jazz)

Georgie Fame

Released August 15, 2000

Prix du Jazz Vocal de l’Académie du Jazz 2000






Georgie Fame’s swinging, surprisingly credible blend of jazz and American R&B earned him a substantial following in his native U.K., where he scored three number one singles during the ‘60s. Fame played piano and organ in addition to singing, and was influenced by the likes of Mose Allison, Booker T. & the MG’s, and Louis Jordan. Early in his career, he also peppered his repertoire with Jamaican ska and bluebeat tunes, helping to popularize that genre in England; during his later years, he was one of the few jazz singers of any stripe to take an interest in the vanishing art of vocalese, and earned much general respect from jazz critics on both sides of the Atlantic. 
Fame first charted in early 1965, with “Yeh Yeh,” a swinging tune recorded by Latin-jazz legend Mongo Santamaria and given lyrics by vocalese virtuoso Jon Hendricks. “Yeh Yeh” went all the way to number one on the British charts, and Fame started living up to his stage name (although the song barely missed the Top 20 in America). His 1965 LP Fame at Last reached the British Top 20, and after several more minor hits, he had another British number one with “Getaway” in 1966. After one more LP with his original band the Blue Flames, Fame broke up the band and recorded solo; over the next few years, his backing bands included drummer Mitch Mitchell (later of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) and the young guitarist John McLaughlin. 
Fame’s solo career was just as productive as before, kicking off with the Top Ten big-band LP Sound Venture (recorded with Harry South’s orchestra); thanks to its success, he toured with the legendary Count Basie the following year. Several hit singles followed over the next few years, including “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde,” which became his third British chart-topper in late 1967 and, the following year, his only Top Ten hit in America. In 1971, he teamed up with onetime Animals organist Alan Price and recorded an album of critically reviled MOR pop, Fame and Price; the partnership produced a near-Top Ten hit in “Rosetta.” 
In 1989, Fame played organ on Van Morrison’s Avalon Sunset album, which grew into a fruitful collaboration over the course of the ‘90s. Fame played on all of Morrison’s albums through 1997’s The Healing Game, received co-billing on Morrison’s 1996 jazz album How Long Has This Been Going On, and even served a stint as Morrison’s musical director. Meanwhile, Fame’s own solo work during the ‘90s received some of his best reviews since the ‘60s, starting with 1991’s jazzy Cool Cat Blues, which featured a duet with Morrison on “Moondance.” 1995’s Three Line Whip featured his sons Tristan and James Powell on guitar and drums, respectively, and 1996’s The Blues and Me garnered more praise. In 1998, Fame split with Morrison to record and tour with former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman’s new group the Rhythm Kings, contributing organ and vocals to several albums. In 2000, now signed to Ben Sidran’s Go Jazz label, Fame released the acclaimed Poet of New York, which established him as an impressive student of jazz’s vocalese tradition. 

Track Listing:

1. Turned to You (Georgie Fame) 3:39

2. But Not for Me (George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin) 5:44

3. Doodlin’ (Jon Hendricks / Horace Silver) 3:59

4. Declaration of My Love (Georgie Fame) 4:45

5. Symphony Sid 4:44

6. On a Misty Night (Tadd Dameron / Georgie Fame) 5:12

7. That’s the Way It Goes (Tadd Dameron / Georgie Fame) 4:50

8. Do It the Hard Way (Lorenz Hart / Richard Rodgers) 3:17

9. Girl Talk (Neal Hefti / Bobby Troup) 4:11

10. It Could Happen to You (Johnny Burke / James Van Heusen) 5:42

11. Accentuate the Bass 3:42

12. Lush Life (Billy Strayhorn) 5:43


Georgie Fame: vocals

Bob Malach: tenor saxophone

David Hazeltine: piano

Louis Hayes: drums

Peter Washington: bass

Ben Sidran: vocals

Recorded in 1999

Produced by Ben Sidran


It’s difficult to explain why English singer-songwriter-keyboardist-arranger Georgie Fame isn’t regarded as a topflight male jazz vocalist: he’s easily the peer of Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling. This lavishly gifted musician’s two excellent 1999 Go Jazz CDs, Name Droppin’ and Walking Wounded, passed virtually unnoticed. Could it be that the success of his ’60s pop hits “Yeh Yeh” and “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” has caused the jazz community to shun him? If so, perhaps Poet in New York, Fame’s latest and finest jazz-oriented album, will open closed minds and ears.
Backed by a first-rate quartet-pianist David Hazeltine, saxophonist Bob Malach, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Louis Hayes-Fame breezes through an exacting repertoire of jazz compositions. He shakes the dust off “Lush Life,” “Doodlin’” and “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid,” and outfits a trio of splendid Tadd Dameron pieces-“That’s the Way It Goes,” “Accentuate the Bass” and the exquisite “On a Misty Night”-with his own thoughtful lyrics.
He also finds apposite words for three vocalese versions of canorous Chet Baker solos: “But Not for Me,” “Do It the Hard Way” and “It Could Happen to You.” Two melodic Fame originals, “Declaration of My Love” and “Tuned in to You” (a tribute to composer-saxophonist Benny Golson) and the Neil Hefti “Girl Talk” (with a new, nonsexist lyric by producer Ben Sidran), complete one of the most creative vocal jazz collections in recent memory.
With his appealing sound, bulls-eye pitch and infallible sense of swing, Fame smoothly negotiates a series of musical and verbal challenges that would ground all but his most accomplished contemporaries. In an era of numbing, sound-alike jazz-vocal albums, Poet in New York delivers the goods.

Joel Siegel (JazzTimes)