Monday, December 14, 2009

Patty Waters on Tour, 1966

The radically free vocal stylings of Patty Waters wasn't (and isn't) an acquired taste. You either came to grips with her low hums, breathy legato chanteusery and highly emotional peaks of primal intensity or you left it alone. When her second album appeared on ESP in 1966, plenty of people did the latter. As time went on, however, there were those who heard something there. She was a pioneer for the free jazz vocalisms that others that came after didn't precisely imitate, but did tacitly acknowledge. Abbey Lincoln occasionally precursed her but little else was on hand when she burst upon the scene.

The On Tour album was made at various points in the ESP NY State College concert series of 1966. (I suspect some minds were blown during those gigs.)

There are three performing units, Patty with the pianist Ran Blake, with the Burton Greene trio, and with a Giuseppe Logan group that included pianist Dave Burrell. Three important pianists in the new thing, then, are an integral part of the performances and their presence is felt in varying degrees. In the course of the album she takes on some standards as launching points; otherwise there is her own material involved. A high point is the Waters-Blake version of "It Never Entered My Mind." Moody, dissonant, sultry. . . it brings out the pain of the lyrics in a direct way and may convince you that her artistry is quite real.

What can one say about Patty Waters? The first album is essential for those who want to grasp the history and aesthetics of the free vocalists and where it all started. The second album is a continuation of what she was doing on the first and has its own trajectory.

This music still has the capacity to excite the listener, or alternately, divert him or her to other recordings. In short some may hate this. Other's will like it intensely. Either way Ms. Waters was a vocal artist of unique sensibility.

A limited edition audiophile vinyl pressing of this record is now available through ESP. Check their site for details.

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