After the Lights Go Down Low and Much More!!! [UK]

by: Freda Payne

By the year 2000, the golden oldie rotation of "Band of Gold" was the main thing keeping the memory of Freda Payne alive. Yet deep in the catalog of the classic jazz label Impulse lies this ambitious, largely successful recording of After the Lights Go Down Low, which shows just how diverse, and indeed brilliant, Freda Payne can be. The album is divided into half big-band tracks, and the other into small a small combo setting. The main presence in both cases is alto saxophonist Phil Woods, and this is one of the few recordings he doesn't turn into a football scrimmage for bebop yardage. There is an incredible wealth of material here, and it is definitely impressive to consider that Duke Ellington wrote a song specifically for this session. It is the singer's confidence and marvelous vocal abilities that steal the show at every turn, but that is not to demean the contributions of top-drawer jazz musicians such as pianist Walter Perkins and guitarist Jim Hall. The record is dominated by Tin Pan Alley material, to be sure, but on the second side some serious jazz is attempted, including a beautiful "'Round Midnight," and a version of "Lonely Woman" by Ornette Coleman. When it comes to the latter tune, the author of the liner notes seems to be straining to hide his contempt, referring to the song as a "composition" in italics, as if it was too touchy to print such a thing in a regular font. It is hoped that an Impulse reissue will see the light of day in this case, so that the line "all that's left is a "band of gold"" will no longer be true in the case of this virtuoso songstress. The album was reissued on CD in 2005 in Verve's limited-edition series, with beautifully remastered sound, complete reproduction of album cover art, and liner notes . ~ Eugene Chadbourne and Thom Jurek

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