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Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Impulse!

Lorez Alexandria has not received her due as a jazz singer, probably due in part to her long layoff from recording (11 years) for nationally distributed labels following these 1964 studio sessions for Impulse! But the vocalist is in top form throughout each of these three sessions, each with a different group of musicians. Her soulful singing also hints at her gospel background in places, though her clear enunciation, ability to swing, and touch of charm make her a delight to hear. Most of the arrangements are fairly concise, so the longer tracks shine just a bit brighter. Her swinging take of "Get Me to the Church On Time" is playful, while her soulfulness comes across in the snappy take of "I'm Through With Love," the latter featuring guitarist Ray Crawford. This is an excellent introduction to a fine vocalist worthy of much wider recognition. ~ Ken Dryden

Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | GRP


Jazz - Released March 31, 1963 | Geffen

Originally released in 1963, For Swingers Only is singer Lorez Alexandria's tenth album and her fourth for Argo. While Alexandria is best known to ardent jazz fans, she was one of the great interpretive vocalists of her time, and this set is proof of that. Alexandria was a Chicago native who had established her reputation there. That said, she was successful enough to relocate to Los Angeles in 1960 to lend her voice work to soundtracks, television commercials, and recordings, and to hold a club gig as a headliner. Unlike some of her previous Argo dates, this one was recorded in Chicago at Ter-Mar Recording Studios. Her band for the session included some regulars like guitarist George Eskridge and drummer Phil Thomas. The great Chicago pianist John Young and the amazing reed and woodwind studio player Ronald Wilson were also on the date. Her bass player for the session was Jimmy Garrison from the John Coltrane Quartet. The material is ambitious. Alexandria had cut Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole," before on the Deluxe label, but this version -- with its slippery, slightly Latin rhythm and popping flute -- is more sultry and atmospheric, and carries within it a loneliness that the earlier one doesn't touch. Her reading of Rodgers & Hart's "Little Girl Blue" is, though this may seem blasphemous, every bit the equal of Nina Simone's -- especially with its deeply soulful a cappella opening. The flute adds exponentially as it softly winds through the ends of lines, filling the space between the rhythm section and the singer. The sadness literally drips from her mouth, saturating the listener. These aren't all sad songs, however. The strutting "All or Nothing at All" is a finger-popping swinger with gorgeous work by Garrison, Young, and Wilson. Given that there are only eight cuts on this set, each one counts -- though these are far from one or two-minute selections, and they dig into their grooves and allow Alexandria to stretch out. The beautiful guitar work on "Traveling Down a Lonely Road" gives the listener the feeling that the protagonist doesn't mind so much. It is the first known vocal recording of the song -- it originally appeared as an instrumental in Federico Fellini's La Strada. Eskridge and drummer Thomas, with his subtle breakbeat style in the intro, set up a beautiful transaction for the piano, bass, and lilting flute work. The true highlight of the set is "Mother Earth," a 12/8 blues with Wilson blowing a gritty tenor and Garrison strolling the bassline in full gutbucket mode. Alexandria allows some of that large throaty range of hers out of the box and lets it rip. This is simply among Lorez Alexandria's most stylized, disciplined, soulful, and satisfying recording sessions, and is highly recommended. [While this fine album had been out of print in the United States for decades, Chicago's own Dusty Groove imprint licensed the master from Universal and had it remastered for release on compact disc for the first time in 2008.] ~ Thom Jurek

Jazz - Released May 14, 2010 | Lone Hill Jazz

The two albums included on this spectacular double-disc collection were recorded for the Argo label in Chicago in 1960 and 1962, respectively. The first five cuts all feature Lorez Alexandria in the company of the Ramsey Lewis Trio (with Redd Holt and Eldee Young), plus guitarist John Gray. The last five tracks on disc one feature this quartet plus Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Joe Newman, Al Grey, and Freddie Green from Count Basie's group of the time. Ultimately, Early in the Morning is the most sophisticated kind of blues recording. The musical arrangements are both groove-laden and wonderfully impressionistic, allowing Alexandria's unusual delivery line plenty of space to play with on tracks such as "Trouble Is a Man," "I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues," and "Rocks in My Bed." Deep Roots is the latter of these LPs; it was recorded with a killer group including trumpeter Howard McGhee, pianist John Young, guitarist George Eskridge, bassist Israel Crosby, and drummer Vernel Fournier (all members of Alexandria's performing group). The material is made up mostly of standards. It features Alexandria's readings of "Nature Boy," "I Want to Talk About You," "Trav'lin' Light," and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" in her signature style. As a bonus, the compilers included two different versions of her most famous cut, "Baltimore Oriole." There's the 1957 original version and the smash from 1963. Both feature Ronald Wilson's fluttering flute, and the latter includes bassist Jimmy Garrison from John Coltrane's quartet. The material has been remastered from analog tapes and issued by Lone Hill's Phoenix imprint, making for an indispensable collection for Alexandria fans. ~ Thom Jurek