Sandi Shoemake - Liner Notes
with the West Coast Jazz Giants
It may seem that six years between albums is a long time
for so accomplished a singer, but Sandi Shoemake does not rush into
things. She carefully chooses repertoire and thoroughly considers approaches
to songs. She plans in depth with her musical director, her arranger,
her accompanist and her husband. The process is made smoother than some
artistic collaborations by the fact that those advisers are incorporated
in the person of Charlie Shoemake. It is also helped along by Sandi’s
and Charlie’s steady work together in the series of concerts they
present every couple of weeks at the Hamlet, a restaurant in Cambria,
California. They have lived in Cambria since they left their studio,
teaching and jazz life in Los Angeles in 1991 and moved up to the Central
Elements of that life remain with them in the musicians who play at their
Sunday concerts. Dozens of guest artists come from the top ranks of
jazz to join the
Shoemakes at the Hamlet. Bud Shank, Roger Kellaway, Charles McPherson, Herb Geller,
Bobby Shew, Alan Broadbent, Teddy Edwards, Cedar Walton and all of the sidemen
on the CD at hand are a few of the distinguished visitors. A singer since she
was three, a professional from her schoolgirl days when she performed at dances
with her father’s band, Sandi is accepted as a peer by world class players
like those Hamlet session mates. If you think that kind of approval is business
as usual, you may not have been exposed to the attitudes of most serious musicians
about most female singers.
Sandi honed her skills and her musicianship in the Los Angeles City College
department “A” band, whose members at various times included Jim
Hall, Bob Florence, Lanny Morgan and Gary Peacock. Two years with Si Zentner’s
band followed. After she married Charlie, they worked together on the L.A. club
scene, which in the early 1960s was still vibrant. Then, as rock music rose and
jazz opportunities declined, she performed in dozens of variety shows and specials
as a staff vocalist at NBC and a free lance singer at CBS and ABC. Her solo work
continued in the orchestra of Nelson Riddle. Riddle made Sandi his featured vocalist,
bringing her under the baton of the man who gave Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald
and Rosemary Clooney some of their most memorable settings.
What attracted Riddle to Sandi is what attracts us in this collection;
the purity of her tone; her control, so demanding, so seemingly effortless;
interpretation of lyrics; and, hand in hand with that interpretation, her flawless
diction. Of her style, Ira Gitler wrote in Jazz Times, “Its very unaffectedness
entwines with the music for a completely integrated whole.” Zan Stewart
reported in The Los Angeles Times, “She is one of the finest interpreters
of ballad material anywhere.” The late Leonard Feather, called Sandi “One
of the most underrated vocalists on the contemporary scene.”
A partisan of pieces that have come to be called, collectively, the great
American songbook, Sandi has a vast repertoire of some of the best
popular music ever
written. As in her previous album (Lullaby in Rhythm, CMG 8057), she chose for
Sophisticated Lady eleven superior examples of craftsmanship by great composers
and lyricists. Charlie’s conception and the richness of his harmonic language
result in settings that often appear to be by a larger ensemble than the septet
he employs on most tracks. His arrangements provide for solos by Andy Martin,
Sam Most, Bruce Forman and Shoemake, all of them-to borrow Feather’s word
describing Sandi-underrated. That condition has everything to do with their geographic
location and nothing to do with their abilities relative to players who happen
to live in New York, where most of the jazz press operates. Charlie is best
known as a vibraharpist. Here, he shows why, but he also reverts to the role
he played when he first moved to L.A. from Houston, that of an inspirational
piano accompanist and soloist.
This album comes with bonuses, solos by Martin, one of the greatest trombonists
alive; by Most, the prototype of the jazz flutist, playing at the top of his
game; by Forman, a g uitarist who etches melodies that stay in the mind;
by Shoemake, a master vibraharpist renowned for his velocity but thoughtful at
any speed; and by Bob Maize, a beloved bassist and curmudgeon, in one of his
last performances. Luther Hughes’s and Paul Kreibich’s time-keeping
perfection is yet another bonus.
A few words about the songs:
“A Rainy Night in Rio” was in a huge production number in the 1946
Warner Bros. musical The Time, the Place and the Girl. It was sung by Janis Paige,
Martha Vickers, Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan, accompanied by Carmen Cavallaro’s
piano and approximately 1,200 dancers.
Ray Bolger sang “Nobody’s Heart” in the Rodgers and Hart musical
By Jupiter, a 1942 Broadway show about doings among Greek gods. Except for the
novelty “Everything I’ve Got,” none of its other songs was
memorable. “Nobody’s Heart” justifies the entire enterprise.
Sigmund Romberg wrote “Lover, Come Back to Me” for the 1928 theater
musical The New Moon, innocent of the knowledge that generations of tenor saxophonists
would use it as an excuse to play solos running upwards of twenty choruses.
Duke Ellington first recorded his “Sophisticated
Lady” as an instrumental
in 1933. After Mitchell Parish and Irving Mills added lyrics, it became one of
Ellington’s most dependable annuities.
Bing Crosby sang “Be Careful,
It’s My Heart” in Holiday Inn,
a 1942 Paramount movie that became a Christmas favorite. Crosby and Frank Sinatra
had hit recordings of the song.
1942 was a good year for movie songs. Ginny Simms played herself and sang “Can’t
Get Out of This Mood” in the Lucille Ball-Victor Mature film Seven Days
Leave. The picture was without substance, but Lucy was at her most stunning,
and Simms sang beautifully.
“I Have Dreamed” is from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King
and I, a hit on Broadway in 1951 and at the movies in 1956. Doretta Morrow and
Larry Douglas sang it on the stage, Rita Moreno and Carlos Rivas in the film.
“The Music Stopped” was one of Frank Sinatra’s numbers in the
1944 motion picture Higher and Higher, but Woody Herman’s recording was
the big seller, with the vocal by Frances Wayne.
Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler sang one of Harry Warren’s greatest songs, “I
Only Have Eyes For You”, in a brilliant Busby Berkeley dream sequence in
the 1934 film Dames. The song’s long life has included appearances in several
other movies, and record hits by The Flamingos and Art Garfunkel, demonstrating
its extreme flexibility.
Jeri Southern’s version of “You Better Go Now” was high on
record and radio charts in 1952. Beryl Booker and Billie Holiday had earlier
successes with it. The song has been around since Nancy Noland and Tom Rutherford
introduced it on Broadway in New Faces of 1936.
The dapper British theatrical singer and actor Jack Buchanan introduced “By
Myself” in 1937 in Between the Devil, a Swartz and Dietz musical that
also included “I See Your Face Before Me.” In 1953, Buchanan appeared
with Fred Astaire in the motion picture Bandwagon, but Astaire sang the song.
Judy Garland included “By Myself” in her final musical picture, I
Could Go On Singing, in 1956.
Any listener’s best analysis comes from the evidence of his ears, so there
is nothing to gain in imposing on you my reaction to Sandi Shoemake’s treatment
of these imperishable songs. However, in the unlikely event that you don’t
notice, I would like to point out that Sandi is one of the best slow singers
in the world. There is no finer evidence of that than “Nobody’s Heart.” One
other thing: in the first chorus of “By Myself,” out there all alone
except for the walking bass of Bob Maiz, with no band to cover the flaws, there
are no flaws. She is perfection.
~ Doug Ramsey
Doug Ramsey’s latest book is Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of
Paul Desmond (www.parksidepublications.com).
In memory of
Produced by Tal-San Music for the Chase Music Group
Sophisticated Lady, I Only Have Eyes For You, By Myself
Bruce Forman-guitar, Bob Maize-bass
All other selections
Shoemake-piano and vibraphone, Andy Martin-trombone, Sam Most-flute,
Bruce Forman-guitar, Luther Hughes-bass,
All selections arranged by Charlie Shoemake
recorded at Painted Sky Studio, Cambria, Ca. - Steve Crimmel, Engineer.
Photography by Bob Barry (Jazzography).
of Sandi Shoemake in a rocking chair courtesy of Kathy Brown.
design and layout by Darcy Ryan (Darcy Designs)