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Album Review

Vocalist Barbara Lea thought that women songwriters (both composers and lyricists) have never gotten sufficient exposure for their overall contributions, so she decided to devote an entire CD to works by women songwriters. Accompanied by the talented pianist Keith Ingham, Lea explores songs from several decades, both familiar and obscure. Lea has been singing for decades, yet has been unjustly overlooked. Yet her pitch is still right on the money over five decades after her debut. Lily Strickland composed "Mah Lindy Lou," a now overlooked gem from the 1920s, as Lea sings it with a simple elegance, backed by Ingham's quietly striding piano. One of the best known songs heard on this disc is Kay Swift's hit "Fine and Dandy," taken at a leisurely tempo by Lea, who also restores the frequently omitted verse. Bernice Petkere's "Lullaby of the Leaves" has long been popular with instrumentalists, though singers tend to overlook it; Lea savors ever word of Joe Young's lyrics. Ella Fitzgerald is probably the best known performer of hundreds of vocalists and instrumentalist to record "How High the Moon," but Lea comfortably makes it her own, once again restoring the omitted verse before delivering a warm rendition at a relaxed tempo. The playfulness of pianist Una Mae Carlisle's "Walking by the River" suggests the influence of Fats Waller. But the most hilarious track is Lora Lee's lively "Pettin' and Pokin'," a wild romp about a noisy couple. Every track is of interest and it would make sense for Barbara Lea and Keith Ingham to record a similar songbook representing similar songwriters whose work is not represented on this excellent CD.


Born: 10 April 1929 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

An excellent singer who was associated with swing and Dixieland, Barbara Lea never broke through with the general public, but she recorded quite a few worthy albums. She sang with Detroit dance orchestras while in school, performed with the college jazz band (the Crimson Stompers) at Harvard, and worked on the East Coast in the 1950s. She recorded for Riverside (1955) and Prestige (1956-1957), using such sidemen as trumpeter Johnny Windhurst and pianists Billy Taylor and Dick Hyman. In the 1960s,...
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Fine and Dandy, Barbara Lea
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