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Barbara Lea in the Big Easy

Date Posted: 2007-03-14



A new recording from Barbara Lea is always reason for celebration but this one is the celebration itself. It has been a long time since her last all new recording for George Buck -- LIVE AT THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (1993) for Jazzology, though there have been additions to many of her Audiophile recordings: the Hoagy Carmichael, Lee Wiley and Willard Robison LPs as well as DO IT AGAIN. Barbara was thrilled when George called and asked her to record again for Audiophile; and delighted that the session was to be in George`s beloved city for the first time, with predominantly New Orleans musicians. Recording was scheduled for early October but had to be postponed when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Barbara feared it would be tabled but a tenacious George Buck rounded up the musicians and everyone agreed on a March recording date. Since Barbara doesn`t travel alone anymore she insisted I go with her. Insisted? I was honored to be part of this very special project!

We were treated like royalty from the moment we stepped off the plane and were greeted by the enthusiastic, ever smiling Houcine Harrabi, George Buck`s right hand man, with whom we had spoken many times on the phone over the years but had never met. Well ensconced in a charming hotel in the French Quarter, just a little more than a block away from the studio and offices, we set off to meet Nina Buck, hostess extraordinaire, at her popular club, the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, which is once again drawing crowds for delicious New Orleans fare and hot live music by local musicians. That night, I had the privilege of meeting George Buck and hearing Barbara sing with the band she was to record with the next day; what a swinging band, as you will hear throughout this recording and especially on their two instrumental numbers, "Shimmy Sha wobble" and "I Never Knew"! Swinging, yes, but listen to the sensitive backing they provide for Barbara on the ballads. You can feel her enjoyment and connection with the band. An added bonus was the wonderful opportunity for her to record once again with great trombonist, Bob Havens.

I know you`ll agree that Barbara sounds glorious on this album. All the elements you have come to expect from her are there: the distinctive burnished alto, great phrasing, excellent diction on timeless as well as fun songs. And she`s back where she belongs, in front of a jazz band... and in the cradle of jazz! Barbara Lea is a marvel, and after more than five decades of recording, continues to draw the listener in to a lyric like nobody`s business as she proves, for starters, on the haunting "A Ghost of a Chance". You can`t help but fall under her spell.

As for the songs themselves, Barbara was encouraged to record whatever she wanted. There were a few suggestions from George Buck as to the type of songs: "My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time", "My Ideal" and "I Couldn`t Sleep a Wink Last Night", "great old songs that nobody does anymore", was how he described them. In deference to George, she included all three. And in honor of the battered city of New Orleans and her people, Barbara chose "Do You Know What it Means To Miss New Orleans?", a song which has taken on added, deeper meaning and pathos since Katrina. Listen to the longing in her voice, the nostalgia for this beautiful city and her honeyed Southern ways. You can almost smell those magnolias in bloom. "Jazz Me Blues" and "Doctor Jazz" will wake you up and get your feet a`tappin` and fingers snappin`! I`ll let the rest of the songs speak for themselves; I just wish there were more of them (particularly absent is "Round `Midnight" which Barbara was adamant about but didn`t get done). As it turned out, there was time for but a single recording session. These are all songs that Barbara has left her indelible mark on, underscoring once again that less is more. Barbara never oversings a song or tries to sell herself -- her interpretations are honest, heartfelt and straightforward and true to what the songwriters had in mind.

This album is a remarkable achievement at this juncture in Barbara`s life and career, a testament to her integrity, stamina and staying power and her immeasurable talent. Never compromising the melody, she proves that good taste and great songs are always in style, just like the Southern hospitality we experienced all around us in New Orleans. Barbara joins me in thanking everyone involved in this recording, especially George Buck for his confidence and support.

Enough talk from me. Now it`s time to revel in the indestructible and unique spirit of The Big Easy with the magic of Barbara Lea & the Bob Havens Jazz Band in New Orleans -- pop the CD into your player and let the celebration begin!


Jeanie Wilson
May 2006


















--
Houcine Harrabi
3408 St. Claude Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70117
Home: 504-942-0405
Cell: 504-615-2887
hharrabi@gmail.com

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