Andy Bey-Ballads, Blue and Bey-Vinyl.

Label: Ko Ko Music.

By the time Andy Bey released Ballads, Blue and Bey in 1996, his career had already spanned four decades. His career began in 1959 when he worked on the Startime television show with Connie Francis. This continued until 1960, and by then, he had also sang for legendary musician, songwriter and bandleader Louis Jordan. However,  when he was seventeen, Andy Bey decided to form a new group with his sisters.

The new group became Andy and The Bey Sisters. They recorded a trio of albums 1961s Andy and The Bey Sisters, 1964s Now! Hear and 1965s Round Midnight. Andy and The Bey Sisters also toured extensively,  and spent sixteen months touring Europe. However, two years after releasing Round Midnight, the group split-up in 1967 and Andy Bey embarked upon a  new chapter in his career working with various jazz musicians.

He had already worked with the Howard McGhee Orchestra on their 1966 album Cookin’ Time. Two years later in 1968, he worked on Max Roach’s Members, Don’t Git Weary. The following year, 1969,  Andy Bey worked with Duke Pearson on How Insensitive. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, Andy Bey entered one of the busiest and most fruitful periods of his career.

As the new decade dawned, in  1970, Andy Bey was one of a trio of featured vocalists on Horace Silver’s album That Healin’ Feelin’. This was the first of four Horace Silver albums that Andy Bey would feature on over the next three decades.

In 1970, Andy Bey  collaborated for the first time with jazz saxophonist Gary Bartz on his latest project NTU Troop. They combined jazz, funk, and soul with social comment and powerful messages. Andy Bey, who was then thirty-one, featured on  Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s sophomore album Harlem Bush Music Taifa. He returned for the followup Harlem Bush Music Uhuru which was released in 1971. That wasn’t the only album Andy Bey worked on during 1971.

He was invited to join the Mtume Umoja Ensemble when they recorded what became their debut album  Alkebu-Lan: Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East). It was released by the Chicago-based label Strata East in 1972. The same year, Andy worked on two albums. 

This included Children Of Forever the debut album by jazz fusion bassist Stanley Clarke. Andy Bey and Dee Dee Bridgewater were the two featured vocalists on the album which was released to critical acclaim and launched Stanley Clarke’s solo career.

The other album released during 1972 that featured Andy Bey was Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s Juju Street Songs. It was hailed as one of the group’s finest releases. However, like so many groundbreaking groups Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s only really started to find a wider appreciative audience at a later date.

In 1973, Gary Bartz NTU Troop released Follow, The Medicine Man. This was the fourth and final album that Andy Bey recorded with Gary Bartz NTU Troop. The thirty-four year old vocalist was about to embark upon a solo career.

A year later, in 1974, Andy Bey released Experience and Judgment on Atlantic Records. It had been recorded during two sessions at New York’s Regent Sound Studios on July ‘26th’ and September the ’19th’ 1973. Jazz, funk, soul and Indian music were combined by Andy Bey and his band on what’s regarded as the finest album of his long and illustrious career. Sadly, it failed to find the audience it deserved upon its release and it was seventeen years before Andy Bey returned with the followup. 

Two years later, in 1976, Andy Bey took to the stage in a theatre production of Adrienne Kennedy’s A Rat’s Mass, directed by Cecil Taylor at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village of Manhattan. However, the following year Andy Bey returned to music.

Andy Bey featured on Grachan Moncur III’s  1977 album Shadows. This was the last album released during the seventies to feature Andy Bey.

After six years away, he made a guest appearance on Heart Is A Melody Of Time (Hiroko’s Song), a track from  Pharoah Sanders’ 1983 album Heart Is A Melody.  Alas, it was another five years before Andy Bey returned.

He was reunited with Horace Silver on Music To Ease Your Disease, which was released in 1988. This was the second album Andy Bey had recorded with Horace Silver and they could continue to collaborate until 1996.

Andy Bey’s long-awaited sophomore album As Time Goes By  was rcorded live in B.P. Club, on the ‘4th’ of May 1991 and released that year. It found Andy Bey delivering a set of that included a jazz classics like It Ain’t Necessarily So and As Time Goes By. However, it would another five years before he released anther album and much had happened in his professional and private life.

In 1993, Andy Bey featured on Horace Silver’s  It’s Got to Be Funky. It featured an an-star band was released to plaudits and praise. Things seemed to be going well for Andy Bey. Then in 1994, he received devastating news.

Andy Bey had never hid his sexuality, and was openly gay. However, in 1994 he was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Despite the diagnosis, Andy Bey decided to continue his musical career.

In 1995,  Andy Bey featured on tenor saxophonist Bob Malach’s album The Searcher. Then in 1996 he joined forces with his old friend Horace Silver.

Total Response  which was released in 1996 was the fourth and  Horace Silver to feature Andy Bey. They had first collaborated in 1970, and three decades later in were still making music. 

1996 was also the year that Andy Bey returned with his much-anticipated third album Ballads, Blue and Bey. This was only the second studio album that Andy Bey had released since his 1974 debut album Experience and Judgment. However, Ballads, Blue and Bey which has just been released as 2 LP set by Ko Ko Music is very different to Andy Bey’s debut.

Instead of a band, Ballads, Blue and Bey features just Andy Bey who accompanies himself on piano on the ten jazz standards. These he extends and delivers with in his own  inimitable style with his four octave baritone vocal.  

Side A.

Opening Ballads, Blue and Bey is a beautiful heartfelt version of Ira and George Gershwin’s Someone To Watch Over Me. It gives way to a cover of Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To where Andy Bey’s piano provides the perfect accompaniment as his vocal veer. 

Side B.

Two songs cowritten by Duke Ellington feature on the second side. The first is a soul-baring take of I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart. It’s followed by a beautiful, emotive rendition of In A Sentimental Mood . This seven minute epic features one of Andy Bey’s best vocals and showcases his skills as a pianist.

Side C.

A wistful sounding cover Willow Weep For Me where Andy Bey lays bare his soul is followed by a thoughtful reading of Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach Yesterdays. Closing the third side is If You Could See  Me Now where Andy Bey breathes meaning and emotion into the lyrics.

Side D.

Duke Ellington and Mack David’s I’m Just A Lucky So and So opens the fourth and final side of Ballads, Blue and Bey. It features a vocal that’s joyous as he reflects on his good fortune at having found the one he loves. Day Dream is another song that Duke Ellington cowrote. This time, he joined forces with Billy Strayhorn and John Latouche. Here, Andy Bey takes the track in a new direction. Partly, this is because of the understated arrangement where the piano sets the scene for Andy Bey’s vocal masterclass. He paints pictures against an arrangement where less is more and is another of the album’s highlights. Embraceable You which was written bye George and Ira Gershwin, closes Ballads, Blue and Bey on a high thanks to his spellbinding vocal.

For anyone yet to discover Andy Bey’s music, Ballads, Blue and Bey is one of his finest albums. His finest hour was his 1974 album Experience and Judgment which is a cult classic that’s highly regarded by connoisseurs of funk and soul. However, Ballads, Blue and Bey which was Andy Bey’s third album was very different from his debut.

By then, twenty-two years had passed and Andy Bey’s music had evolved and Ballads, Blue and Bey is album of jazz. This wasn’t the only change. 

Andy Bey isn’t accompanied by a band on Ballads, Blue and Bey and instead, accompanies himself on piano. These understated arrangements are hugely effective and provide the perfect backdrop to the vocals on the ten standards. He makes good use of his four octave baritone vocal throughout the album as he breathes life, meaning and emotion into these familiar and oft-covered songs. Sometimes, Andy Bey’s vocals are heartfelt, other times hurt-filled, reflective,  rueful, thoughtful, wistful and worldweary.  Like an actor in a play, Andy Bey lives the lyrics on the standards on Ballads, Blue and Bey, which is a truly timeless jazz album that is the perfect introduction to one of music’s best kept secrets.

Andy Bey-Ballads, Blue and Bey-Vinyl.

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