I Love Being Here with You: A Jazz Piano Tribute to Peggy Lee

by: Beegie Adair

On paper, the idea of having a jazz pianist pay tribute to a pop singer by performing versions of songs associated with her might seem tenuous, but when the singer is Peggy Lee, the project makes far more sense. Lee was not a jazz singer per se, but she emerged from big-band jazz as the girl singer in Benny Goodman's orchestra, and she often employed jazz musicians as accompanists. Also, she was not just a singer, but also a songwriter, and some of the compositions in which she participated are included. Beegie Adair goes all the way back to Lee's breakthrough hit with Goodman, "Why Don't You Do Right," and also includes versions of Lee's own, self-written hit "I Don't Know Enough About You," as well as such efforts as her revised version of "Fever." Working with a rhythm section of bass and drums (neither of which ever solo), Adair sticks close to the melodies of the tunes, in effect substituting for Lee's vocal with her piano playing. She does add improvised, jazzy embellishments, but her approach is generally faithful to what the composers wrote. Occasionally, the connection to Lee is tangential, such as the inclusion of "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe." True, Lee did record it, but so did plenty of other people, and it isn't particularly associated with her. Still, the connection to the singer is a good excuse to gather up some jazz-friendly tunes and give them the Beegie Adair treatment. ~ William Ruhlmann

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