This is vocalist Lisa Rich’s third album, coming now a mere 32 years later, recently remixed and released for the first time. Yes, there’s a story here. Rich sings so purely and this recording is so pristine in sound that it deserves to be heard. Not only that, it features compositions from Chick Corea, Ralph Towner, Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Loonis McGlohon and the standard “We’ll Be Together Again.” Rich was one of the most promising jazz singers of the ‘80s and performed in many prestigious venues during a 15-year period, including the Kennedy Center. She received three NEA grants, was featured on NPR (All Things Considered) and Voice of America. She received rave reviews in Billboard, Downbeat, and in the Los Angeles Times by Leonard Feather. Her first two albums charted well.
That brings us to this recording. A chance encounter with Chick Corea led to him presenting her with several of songs, five of which are represented here. She gathered top notch musicians in the studio in 1987 including pianist Marc Copeland who plays on eight of the ten with David Kane taking his place on two. Bassist David Gress and drummer Michael Smith round out the supporting piano trio. The other compositions are from Ellington, two from Ralph Towner, one from Ornette Coleman, one from Loonis McGlohon, and the standard.
The opening “High Wire The Aerialist,” penned by Corea, was not recorded by anyone else until the composer recorded it with Chaka Khan in 2009. Corea’s “Contessa” is a jazz waltz that he never recorded. His “Bud Powell” has been recorded instrumentally but this represents the only vocal treatment of the composition. This was the recording debut for the adventurous Corea jazz waltz, “Stardancer,” an impeccable vocal from Rich. The other tune is the first half of the album is a ballad medley of Towner’s “Celeste” (with words by Norma Winstone) and Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss.”
To be sure, this is one of those romantic, late night listening vocal albums. Other than the brief, peppy “The Jinn,” also from Corea, the other four in the second half are ballads. Rich’s emotive, slow tempo take accompanied only by Kane’s piano for Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” is fascinating. She also does a piano duet on one of Towner’s most memorable compositions, “The Silence of a Candle.” Rich proves her mettle as an exquisite ballad singer on McGlohon’s “Songbird” and articulates each word beautifully in the standard “We’ll Be Together Again.” Most of these songs, certainly Corea’s and Coleman’s were not originally written to feature singers, and, as such, were receiving their debut vocal recording.
The album was never released due to serious health issues which eventually caused her to stop performing. She opened a music studio working as a private teacher and conductor of workshops. Last year after working to find some strength, she returned to mix this music. It’s the best of her three albums and an exquisite, flawless, display of hitting the right notes, singing with clarity, and making it sound completely effortless.
- Jim Hynes