Beverly Kenney: With The Basie-ites

Briefly famous and tragically short-lived singer is heard with Joe Newman, Frank Wess, Jo Jones and others from the late 50s Basie band

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Beverly Kenney attracted attention and found brief fame as a jazz singer in the late 50s and early 60s. She was a true, natural-sounding jazz vocalist whose attractive voice and phrasing made it easy for musicians to accompany her.

This album was ideal for her talent as it put her with a highly compatible combo. Jimmy Jones on piano led a contingent from the Count Basie band of the day, with the original Basie stickman Jo Jones on drums. Frank Wess, on tenor and flute, is featured throughout the album.

A Fine Romance works well, with Beverly singing right on the beat and improvising in her own unique way on the lyric. Joe Newman’s trumpet provides a neat instrumental solo. She stretches her vocal cords over Makin’ Whoopee, an ideal chart for her singing style, and Jones plays a sparkling piano solo in Bill Basie mode.

The Charm Of You is a good example of Beverly’s way with a ballad. She sings it straight, her clear voice providing a unique interpretation. Isn’t It A Lovely Day gives her a chance to swing it easily with the band gliding along behind her. Newman’s trumpet again makes a sterling contribution.

Mostly, the programme features quality standards which suit singer and combo very well. Mairzy Doats is an odd selection, perhaps, but nobody’s perfect. This reissue adds four bonus tracks to the original album released on Roost Records. On two of those, Beverly sings with just Ellis Larkins on piano and Joe Benjamin’s bass.

Beverly was one of the very best true jazz singers of the era but sadly she suffered from deep depression. She attempted suicide twice and then succeeded on the third attempt, 12 April 1960. She was only 28 years old. Few vocalists of the time possessed her combination of jazz phrasing, sense of swing and clear, bright diction.

Discography
Nobody Else But Me; The More I See You; Old Buttermilk Sky; I Never Has Seen Snow; A Fine Romance; Who Cares What People Say; Life Can Be Beautiful; Almost Like Being In Love; Makin’ Whoopee; The Charm Of You; Isn’t This A Lovely Day; Mairzy Doats; My Kind Of Love; Can’t Get Out Of This Mood; Do It Again; A Sunday Kind Of Love; It’s A Most Unusual Day (46.12)
Collective personnel: Kenney (v); Joe Newman, Charlie Shavers (t); Eddie Bert (tb); Frank Wess (ts); Jimmy Jones, Ellis Larkins (p); Freddie Green (g); Chuck Wayne, Johnny Smith (elg); Bill Pemberton, Eddie Jones, Joe Benjamin (b); Jo Jones, Ed Shaughnessy, Jerry Segal (d). NYC, 1956-1959.
Supper Club 005