PEGGY LEE (VOCALS) — Black Coffee With Peggy Lee (review)

PEGGY LEE (VOCALS) — Black Coffee With Peggy Lee album cover Album · 1956 · Vocal Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
js
Not only is ‘Black Coffee’ considered one of Peggy Lee’s finest records, it also gives us a unique snapshot of her development over a three year period. The first eight songs on this record were recorded in 1953 with a jazz trio plus trumpet and released on a ten inch record just a couple years before the twelve inch LP became the standard. Three years later in 1956 Peggy hit the studio again with a far different ensemble that included a harpist and a percussionist who would often switch from the trap set to the more unique sound of the vibraphone. The purpose of this second recording session was to provide enough additional material so that they could re-release the whole package as a twelve inch LP.

There is quite a difference between the two combos on here, and there is also a noticeable difference in Lee’s voice and presence on the two sessions as well. The songs recorded in 1953 are more extroverted and jazzy, the trumpet answers to Peggy’s vocals recall an earlier era in jazz, almost back to the time of Satchmo and classic New Orleans jazz. The trumpet adds an irreverent and sassy touch that was unusual for a vocal record at this time, but the icy cool sound of the 1956 combo with its exotic harp and vibraphone textures seems to bring out more of Lee’s unique vocal qualities.

Peggy is a great jazz singer, but at her best she elevates herself to something a little more personal, more like a modern cabaret singer with a personal tale of feelings that are hinted at rather than over stated. It’s the 56 combo that provides the air of mystery that really brings out the best and most memorable in Peggy Lee.
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