Although very young and relatively inexperienced in the early and mid-1950s, Ruth Price made an instant impression on those who heard her in those years. She sang often for a youthful audience at Philadelphia’s Music City and youthfulness is an apt word in describing her sound and her approach to lyrics. There is an often engaging simplicity in the vocal line, and no artificiality, no hint that she is making a statement. Rather, the simple reading of the lyric, which hews to the lyricist’s intentions, is itself a statement that carries subtle weight.
A fleeting appearance at Birdland in 1953, a week with Charlie Ventura the following year, and a spell of several months with Harry James in the mid-1960s apart, Price’s major vocal contribution came with the two Kapp albums presented here. The songs include a few that are rarely heard with most being well known but far from overused. Nowhere, is there anything that jars, and much that is a delight.
Lou Stein’s accompanying trio on I Sing are supportive, rhythmically engaging and never encroach on the vocal line, not even when Price duets with Ellis Tollin on Shadrack. Interjections from the guest soloists are good and add to the jazz credentials. Although not as well known, the accompanying trio and quintet on The Party’s Over are similarly at the service of the singer.
In later years, Price made few recordings but she was far from done with the jazz world. For decades she was artistic director and a driving force behind the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles and she also taught at UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology.
Price’s actual age is hard to pin down. The latest date given is 1938, which would make her an unlikely 15 at her Birdland appearance and 17 on the first of these albums. The earliest date is 1930 and as this comes by way of Scott Yanow is likely accurate and means that Price has now entered her 90s.
This reissue in Jordi Pujol’s The Best Voices Time Forgot series is warmly recommended to those who like to hear good songs sung well.
[My Name Is Ruth Price… I Sing] (1) My Shining Hour; Ev’ry Time; Calypso Blues; I Don’t Want To Walk Without You; Who Am I?; Gentleman Friend; I’m Old Fashioned; Give Me The Simple Life; Sleighride In July; Shadrack; Someday My Prince Will Come; Exactly Like You; [The Party’s Over] (3) By Myself; Street Of Dreams; (2) If I Love Again; (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over; (3) I Had The Craziest Dream; (2) Bye And Bye; (3) You Stepped out Of A Dream; (2) Take My Love; (3) I Am The Girl; (2) Something To Remember Me By; (3) I Guess I’ll Have To Dream The Rest; (2) The Party’s Over (71.30)
(1) Price (v); Lou Stein (p, arr); Milt Hinton (b); Ellis Tollin (d) and guests Joe Newman (t); Frank Wess (ts); Tony Mottola (g). NYC, 23 June, 12, 14, 20 July 1955.
(2) Price (v); Norman Paris (p); Frank Cerchia (g); Ed Arndt (b). NYC, 16, 17, 18 October and 7 December 1956.
(3) as (2) add unk. (vib) and (d).
Fresh Sound FSR V130