Paula Harris is the sort of vocalist you would expect to find, in fact, in a classic speakeasy or in a ritzy nightclub. Her voice is full and sometimes haunting, as it is on the first song, “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight. It is also capable of getting naughty on a song like “I Wanna Hate Myself Tomorrow (For Raising Hell Tonight.)” This album has no guitar but is strongly piano-driven.
That remarkable piano player is Nate Ginsberg who has played with greats like Herbie Hancock and Greg Allman. He also co-wrote some of the original songs here and is so fabulous on every number that I feel he should have a credit along with Harris on the cover. The other musicians on the album are equally experienced and talented: Derrick “D’Mar” Martin on drums, Rich Girard on upright bass and trumpet player Bill Ortiz.
There is a theme winding through the album about the danger and the enticement of bad men. It is a classic theme for women in jazz and blues, and Harris does justice to it in a variety of styles, from the moving “Haunted,” which indeed give you shivers as Harris hits those lower registers, to the lightly rocking “Soul Suckin’ Man.” Christopher “Kid” Anderson plays bongos on that song.
A different note comes in on “A Mind of Her Own,” with Harris reminding the person the song addresses that you can “ip off a man’s wallet, but a woman’s got a mind of her own.” Preach it, sister! This is followed by the sexy, chilling “Something Wicked,” with Ortiz’s gorgeous trumpet and a deeply seductive spoken part by Big Lou Johnson.
“Troublemaker” is a rocking bit of jazz about the joys of making a wrong choice willingly, with a little bit of scat thrown in. Next is the gorgeous rendition of Thelonius Monk’s “Round Midnight.” From the first notes, the piano, the trumpet and Harrs’s voice all perfectly match this magical song. This to me is the highlight of this excellent album. It is a song to curl up to, to listen to in the dark, or to savor however you choose.
It is followed by the cheerful “You Don’t Look One Day Over Fabulous,” which is fun. Next, “Do Me Good” offers an interesting contrast between the tough ultimatum of the message and the bight, bouncy tone of the instruments.
We then enter into the bonus tracks, which may not be available in every format. They are worth finding because they are strong tracks. First is an excellent cover of Blood, Sweat and Tears’ “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” also made popular by Donnie Hathaway. On this version, Harris’ voice is a perfect match to that incredible piano, making it as powerful as any I have ever heard. Just wow. “Forever and a Day” has that winning combo of Harris, piano, and trumpet again. “Scratches On Your Back” is a humorous look at infidelity, with the man offering some creative excuses for some strong evidence against him.
Finally, the album ends with an absolutely scrumptious version of Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” which also lets Ginsberg stretch out and show off on those keys while Harris kills on the lyrics.
Overall, you will love this album. It deserves to be a classic, in the same league as Dinah Washington and Nina Simone.