Amy London's "Bridges" Released On November 17
Vocalist Revisits the First Decade of her Career with 15 Song Retrospective
Fred Hersch, Darmon Meader, Harvie S, Victor Lewis, Bob Mintzer and Dr. Lonnie Smith are among the stellar cast of collaborators.
Sometimes you must look back in order to move forward. With the November 17 release of Bridges, vocalist Amy London is doing just that, allowing 15 tracks of previously recorded music to finally see the light of day. While most recently recognized for her work with critically acclaimed group The Royal Bopsters, Amy’s career began in the early 1980s after she first arrived in New York City. Within a short time, the Cincinnati native found herself working with the likes of Fred Hersch, Bob Mintzer, Cyro Baptista, and two Gold Record winning trumpeter Tom Browne, with whom she toured in 1982.
Determined to launch a solo recording career, Amy recorded the bulk of the album’s fifteen songs: classics and 1 original—with Fred Hersch in his home studio in 1987. After an awkward meeting with Concord’s Carl Jefferson didn’t result in a deal, and as her ensemble work became increasingly successful, Amy literally put Bridges on the shelf, where it has remained for the past 25 years. During that time, she did achieve her dream of a solo recording career with the release of two albums on Motema, When I Look in Your Eyes (2007) and Let’s Fly (2010). But the music sitting on the shelf in her bedroom closet, the music that is now featured on Bridges, would not be stilled. Not while she recorded with New York Voices as the fifth singer on their CD, Visions Within (MSR), not while she was cast as the lead singer in the Angel City 4, the vocalese group that was the musical engine of Cy Coleman’s six-time Tony-winning and Grammy-nominated Broadway hit, City of Angels (CBS), not while she helped develop the vocal program at The New School, and not while she raised two daughters.
“I would often listen to these recordings and think, ‘These should be out in the world, ” says Amy. “Thanks to the magic of Dave Kowalski, who sent me to West West Side Studios, my two-inch masters, that were on the brink of disintegration, were baked and brought back to life digitally. Dave was then able to open them up and remix them.”
The album opens with Hersch’s arrangement of title track on which he also contributes vocals. Drummer Victor Lewis, Harvie S on bass, Bob Mintzer on tenor sax, and Cyro Baptista on percussion comprise the ensemble that supports Amy as she moves through the subsequent seven songs, all from that 1987 recording session, including Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale, ” and Oscar Brown’s “Strong Man.” Amy’s own composition, “This Time, ” rounds out this first grouping of tracks.
“When I was on the road with Tom Browne, I was influenced by his crossover jazz style and wrote “This Time” on the tour bus, recollects Amy. “I predominantly write vocalese lyrics, so it was unique for me to write both melody and lyrics. I showed it to Fred, who wrote this arrangement with all the key changes on the Bob Mintzer solo.”
Amy says that the chronology of the three recording sessions as they appear on Bridges is less important than the fact that the album represents the best of the early recordings she made since first arriving in NYC. “During the time that I was in City of Angels, I fell in love with bebop, ” Amy remembers. “That was the musical progression that’s represented on Bridges’ second five tracks, which were recorded in 1990, when Amy returned to the studio to work with Yaron Gershovsky (who’s been the musical director of Manhattan Transfer for 40 years). For these sessions Amy recruited pianist Peter Madsen (Stan Getz, Stanley Turrentine, Benny Golson, George Coleman, Oscar Brown Jr., Ravi Coltrane), bassist Dean Johnson (Gerry Mulligan), drummer Eliot Zigmund (Bill Evans, Michel Petrucciani) and trumpeter Byron Stripling (Count Basie, Carla Bley, Joe Henderson) to join her and Darmon Meader (leader of New York Voices), on five additional tracks, including a striking interpretation of Langston Hughes’ poetry on Madsen’s “Dream, ” and Amy’s vocalese rendering of Gigi Gryce's solo from Oscar Pettiford’s “Bohemia After Dark.”
Before the two sessions detailed above, in 1984, after her international tour with Tom Browne and a subsequent tour with Charles Aznavour, Amy was invited to perform with Hammond B-3 hero Dr. Lonnie Smith at several gigs. She then invited him, along with Browne’s main tenor sax-man Bobby Franceschini, (Mike Stern), guitarist Jack Wilkins (Buddy Rich, Jack DeJohnette), and bassist Harvie S and drummer Akira Tana—who had performed with Amy in Aznavour’s band – for a session that resulted in the two tracks- “You’ve Changed” and “Naima”—that round out this career retrospective.
To Amy, the music here represents the varied facets of what she brings to her work as a musician, not simply as a vocalist. Bridges confirms that singers can not only hold their own among a strong cadre of instrumentalists, but that they do, in fact, contribute equally to the final product, whether it be a live performance or dusty tapes on a closet shelf.
“Bridges represents a 'bridge' to my early work as a young jazz singer in NYC, when I was still transitioning from the influence of Laura Nyro and Motown Girl Groups into my lifelong love for bebop singing ala Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. These 15 sides represent my early arranging ideas, and I am so thrilled that I was able to collaborate with these excellent jazz musicians, who took my ideas, added their own, and helped bring Bridges to fruition. As a vocal jazz educator, I have taught hundreds of singers how to be arrangers, and to have faith that the music they hear can be transferred onto the bandstand, communicated to the band and ultimately end up on recordings.”
About Amy London
Amy London is known and loved in New York City jazz and Broadway circles for her effortless sound, impeccable musicianship and depth of emotion. Her 2015 CD on Motema, The Royal Bopsters Project, features a vocal jazz quartet with Amy as the leader and soprano; Holli Ross, swinging alto; the legendary Darmon Meader, tenor; and bright newcomer Dylan Pramuk, bass. Together they arranged and recorded 12 songs, including four with the late bop master Mark Murphy, and one each with Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan and Bob Dorough. This remarkable project received 4 and 1/2 stars in Downbeat, a video feature in the Wall Street Journal, rave reviews in JazzTimes and other jazz periodicals, and was on the Best CDs of 2015 lists of Downbeat, JazzTimes, All About Jazz and Talkin’ Broadway. The CD release event was celebrated by a sold out 6 night run at Birdland.
Ms. London’s two previous critically acclaimed CD’s on Motema as a leader, Let’s Fly and When I Look in Your Eyes feature some of the world’s top jazz musicians, and have led her to engagements in Russia, Italy, Turkey, France, Brazil, England, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Canada, as well as cities across the US.
As a jazz educator, Amy London has been teaching voice since 1984. She has been faculty at New School University’s Jazz BFA program since 1992, and is one of the principal architects of the highly successful vocal department there. In early 2014, Amy launched the Vocal Jazz Academy at Jazz House for Kids, in Montclair, NJ, at the invitation of Christian McBride and Melissa Walker. In the Fall of 2016, she joined the renowned vocal faculty of the BFA jazz program at City College, CUNY, NYC. Amy is in demand at jazz camps and workshops worldwide.