Vibes Master CDSandi Shoemake - Liner Notes

Sophisticated Lady
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 Coast.

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 music 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; her intelligent 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 (

In memory of Bob Maize (1945-2004)

Produced by Tal-San Music for the Chase Music Group

Sophisticated Lady, I Only Have Eyes For You, By Myself
Charlie Shoemake-vibraphone, Bruce Forman-guitar, Bob Maize-bass

All other selections
Charlie Shoemake-piano and vibraphone, Andy Martin-trombone, Sam Most-flute, Bruce Forman-guitar, Luther Hughes-bass, Paul Kreibich-drums and percussion

All selections arranged by Charlie Shoemake

All selections recorded at Painted Sky Studio, Cambria, Ca. - Steve Crimmel, Engineer. Spring/Summer-2004.

Photography by Bob Barry (Jazzography).

Cover photo of Sandi Shoemake in a rocking chair courtesy of Kathy Brown.

Graphic design and layout by Darcy Ryan (Darcy Designs)

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