Issue No. 488, Feb. 3-9, 2005
Photo by Susan Wilson

Jazz Standard, Mon 7

FOR MANY years, jazz, both instrumental and vocal, was the sound of experience – a diary of life lived hard, then translated into musical flights of fancy, steeped in wisdom. But now youth rules the jazz world, as it does almost everything else. Record companies covet the latest fuckable jazz-singing babe of 22, or the new boy-wonder who delivers worldly sentiments with blank eyes and a Pepsodent smile.

If you want a reminder of how things once were, don’t miss a rare New York appearance at the Jazz Standard (February 7) by Rebecca Parris, New England’s beloved earth-mother of jazz singers. Parris’s brazen tenor sax of a voice and deep interpretative wisdom won her the respect of Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn, and Carmen McRae, along with the title of Boston’s First Lady of Jazz. She favors the Great American Songbook, and even though her ears and her chops are not far from Vaughan’s, every improvisation highlights the words. Now 52, Parris is known for her luxuriously slow and nuanced ballad singing, which was showcased on a recent CD,
My Foolish Heart (Koch Jazz). It features the uncommonly sensitive pianist who will join her at the Jazz Standard: George Mesterhazy, Shirley Horn’s accompanist for the last few years, when a partial leg amputation made it hard for her to manage the piano. Parris herself has weathered a life of hard knocks with her bumptious humor intact. In song, she and Mesterhazy have stories to tell that no kid on the scene could begin to impart.