Nancy Harms | Ellington at Night

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Ellington at Night

by Nancy Harms

Possessing a voice filled with delicious subtleties and striking authenticity, Harms uses Ellington's gorgeous music to explore all the richness that the night has to offer....from loneliness to luxuriousness, from flirtation to melancholy...
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Vocals
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Lush Life
3:42 $0.99
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2. Rocks in My Bed
4:13 $0.99
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3. Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me
2:58 $0.99
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4. Lost in Meditation
5:44 $0.99
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5. Troubled Waters
3:26 $0.99
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6. Prelude to a Kiss
5:33 $0.99
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7. Long, Strong and Consecutive
4:58 $0.99
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8. Strange Feeling
4:30 $0.99
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9. Reflections
3:17 $0.99
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10. I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)
4:40 $0.99
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11. I'm Beginning to See the Light
3:27 $0.99
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12. I Like the Sunrise
5:09 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
WILL FRIEDWALD (music critic for the Wall Street Journal and celebrated author) had this to say about "Ellington At Night":

“…What makes ‘Ellington at Night’ so remarkable is the way that Nancy Harms and chief collaborator Jeremy Siskind have found a whole new way to sing Ellington, one that's perfectly in keeping with the Ellington tradition, yet, at the same time, fresh and original. …..her vocal timbre might be characterized as "cool" – though there's an undeniable warmth to her singing as well. Her sound is understated, yet it doesn't hold anything back. She doesn't give us anything more than we need – no note is unnecessarily higher or longer than it should be – and yet her spirit and energy are giving, even generous beyond the cool of duty. She swings like crazy, but she never makes the rhythm more important than the narrative……there's no doubt as to exactly what she means.……Ellington's most familiar songs...sound anything but overdone when Nancy sings them…… I can only imagine that on whatever turquoise cloud (Ellington) might be reclining on, he couldn't help but love her madly.”


Reviews of the SHOW "Ellington at Night"

"....suddenly lets her power loose on key phrases that display a reserve of swinging authority....Ms. Harms's show wasn't all impressionistic dreaminess. A tough, demanding swinger emerged in up-tempo numbers....Ms. Harms revealed the determination of a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants..... The final impression left by Ms. Harms was of a complicated enigmatic woman of mystery forging her own path."
- - STEPHEN HOLDEN, NEW YORK TIMES


"Harms skillfully lures us into the wistful dreamscape of a haunted lover leaning ever-forward, eyes fixed on her audience to convey the very essence of the lyric."
-- BILLIE ROE, BROADWAY WORLD

"Both jazz- and cabaretland could learn a lot from the elegant, understated, but beautifully expressive tribute to Duke Ellington that Nancy Harms gave on Wednesday at the Metropolitan Room. .....this show, and Nancy's featherweight, postcoital sound, made even Ellington warhorses sound new to my ears...."
-- JAMES GAVIN (Author, "IS THAT ALL THERE IS - The strange life of Peggy Lee", and "INTIMATE NIGHTS - The golden age of New York Cabaret")


QUOTES ABOUT NANCY:

“…she engages the listener by seeming to put her whole soul completely forward…after hearing her just once, you’ll never want to let her go.” – Will Friedwald, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“...Harms takes another leap, this one farther into the realm where voice and imagination come together to define the highest art of jazz singing”. – Andrea Canter, JAZZ POLICE

“Her voice is warm, with a touch of vulnerability, and a believability…a young jazz singer worth discovering.” –NPR

“She has a genuinely beautiful voice…and a spacious yet precise sense of timing. She knows how to tell a story and make a lyric spark and hum with emotion and truth. She has courage, and she means business…..Dreams in Apartments’ is about dreams in strange places and anonymous spaces that don’t yet feel like home. It’s about restlessness and change, the need to keep moving, the awareness that time is short, a life in flux and on the cusp. (A) line from ‘And It’s Beautiful’ could be the theme: ‘Every step is a new creation.’ Well-planned and well-paced, Nancy Harms’ second album – only her second – has moments of real magic.” – Pamela Espeland, BEBOPIFIED

“Breathy, subtle vocalist Nancy Harms…. In narrative command” – Carlo Wolff, DOWNBEAT Magazine

“…on her rise to the top.” — ALL ABOUT JAZZ

“An intimate vocalist who sounds as if she is singing directly at each listener…clearly a singer with a potentially significant future.” – Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene

“…Finally got around to listening to NANCY HARMS – my loss all these months – she is very good; good selection too ….. Her timbre has a delicious edge to it, and her time is very fine….” – Award-winning NYC-based author-critic GARY GIDDINS


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Arne Fogel (album co-producer)

Complete unabridged liner notes by WILL FRIEDWALD
Notes on
NANCY HARMS
and
“ELLINGTON AT NIGHT”
by
WILL FRIEDWALD

In many ways, Duke Ellington was the most complete songwriter that ever lived. More than any of his peers, including such colossi as Jerome Kern or Irving Berlin or even George Gershwin, Ellington's songs have a unique sonic identity – you can always tell an Ellington song from anyone else's, even if it's one that you've never heard before. Ellington appears to have deliberately encouraged this; for one thing, he consistently avoided ever working with any one lyricist for too long – no one ever wrote words to more than a small handful of Ellington songs (and the Duke himself was a better lyricist than he's generally given credit for, as on "I Like the Sunrise") – with the end result being that we think of all of these songs as Duke Ellington songs, rather than songs by Bob Russell or Paul Francis Webster or even Johnny Mercer.

The author's signature is all over the words as well as the music – you can't imagine any other songwriter could have come up with "Long, Strong and Consecutive," "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" or "Rocks in My Bed." To a large extent, Ellington came up with the titles even when he didn't write the specific lyrics, and they often felt like they reflected his own personality – it's not hard to imagine Ellington instructing one (or more) of his legendary legion of boudoir conquests to kiss him long, strong, and consecutively.

Just as though there always has been an Ellington type of song, there's also traditionally been an Ellington type of voice – we tend to associate his songs with iconic jazz voices, like Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan. (He also had a penchant for classical and operatic female voices, as we know, like Adelaide Hall or Kay Davis.)

What makes Ellington at Night so remarkable is the way that Nancy Harms and chief collaborator Jeremy Siskind have found a whole new way to sing Ellington, one that's perfectly in keeping with the Ellington tradition, yet, at the same time, fresh and original. Compared to Ellington's own singers, like Ivie Anderson or Joya Sherrill, her vocal timbre might be characterized as "cool" – though there's an undeniable warmth to her singing as well. Her sound is understated, yet it doesn't hold anything back. She doesn't give us anything more than we need – no note is unnecessarily higher or longer than it should be – and yet her spirit and energy are giving, even generous beyond the cool of duty. She swings like crazy, but she never makes the rhythm more important than the narrative.
It should be clarified that this album covers the extended Ellington family of songs, since there's also "Lush Life" and "Strange Feeling" by Billy Strayhorn, the Maestro's longtime musical partner, and "Troubled Waters," written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow but introduced by Ellington's band in cahoots with Mae West in the 1934 film Belle of the Nineties. Clearly, she's making some kind of a point by opening with "Lush Life" and following it with "Rocks in My Bed": the first is one of the most complex odes in anybody's songbook, a story of both romantic and harmonic ambiguity, which, as she shows in her singing, seems to exist in several emotional states at the same time; the second, contrastingly, is one of the most basic 12-bar blues that Ellington ever wrote (lyrics as well as music), and even though there's a heavy element of humor ("under loved, over fed").

"Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" (which originates in one of Ellington's favorite expressions, as well as the earlier instrumental "Concerto for Cootie") has Nancy singing in a clipped staccato fashion – which makes for an effective contrast with the luxurious string section. Where "Do Nothin'" is a solid swinger, "Lost in Meditation" offers Nancy at her most ethereal, sounding like a voice in the mist, not necessarily consumed in her own internal thoughts but sounding like she's materializing out of a dream, a trancelike state partially induced by Mr. Siskind's otherworldly piano solo.

"Troubled Waters" cries out both to and from the great beyond in other ways, with many spiritual references (audiences in 1934 would have recognized the phrase "Scandalize My Name" from a traditional spiritual); Nancy and Jeremy treat it essentially like two songs at once, starting like a prayer before Nancy and the ensemble surprise us by switching it to double time. "Prelude to a Kiss" (words by the "Unforgettable" Irving Gordon) has Nancy and Jeremy celebrating the small details, flowers crying for the dew and all that (not to to mention "tender, sentimental woes") – it's probably the most intimate performance on the album. "Long, Strong and Consecutive" is the least-heard of three tunes by Ellington and Mack David from 1944-'45 (the others being "Don't You Know I Care" and "I'm Just a Lucky So and So"). Nancy manages to make her meaning come through with no ambiguity even when speaking entirely in 70-year-old hipster jargon – there's no doubt as to exactly what she means. (One can only imagine that any romantic swain would be happy to oblige.)

"I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)" and "I'm Beginning To See The Light" are two of Ellington's most familiar songs, but they sound anything but overdone when Nancy sings them. The first is rendered less self-pityingly than usual, with Siskind supplying a very different kind of piano background – you certainly couldn't tell what melody it was from the accompaniment alone. "I'm Beginning To See The Light" is bouncy and playful, as if she really were actually shadowboxing (whether in the dark or in the light makes no difference) with the notes.

"Strange Feeling" (words and music by Strayhorn), "I Like The Sunrise" (words and music by Duke), and "Reflections In D" aren't pop songs at all; rather they all derive from Ellington's suites, tone poems, and so-called "serious music." "Strange Feeling" has hardly been sung at all since Al Hibbler introduced it in the 1945 Perfume Suite; it's a very tense and angsty piece, full of dissonant chords, like a theme song to a film noir; Jeremy and Nancy surprise us by interrupting the mood with a highly unexpected waltz interlude that includes a solo by bassist Danton Boller. "Reflections" (which follows "Do Nothin'" as the other track with strings) is a marvelously reflective etude that began as a solo piano treatment by Ellington – one of the Maestro's most thoughtful, contemplative pieces. "Sunrise" (from The Liberian Suite, and also first sung by Hibbler) is a marvelous affirmative, optimistic note to end the show on. As Nancy points out in the live version of this, the nocturnal experience of Ellington at Night can only end with the sunrise. Jeremy's piano intro suggests a world coming back to life, almost like flowers (in their flowerbeds) yawning and stretching. It's hopeful and inspirational without being the least bit lightweight or frivolous.

There are few women I'd rather wake up with than Nancy Harms – Ellington himself would have surely agreed. I can only imagine that on whatever turquoise cloud he might be reclining on, he couldn't help but love her madly.
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