Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ladies Day – Monica Ramey and The Beegie Adair Trio

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“It was a thought that repeated in my mind as I listened to this album. My ear would be captured by the very personal way Monica's voice caressed a long-known melody, or by an oblique turn of phrase or harmony chosen by her empathetic, almost telepathic, accompanist, Beegie Adair. A song, such as "Change Partners" or "Lullaby of the Leaves," might have at its foundation a rhythmic feeling that simply drew me in and wouldn't let go. Sometimes, a lyric that I hadn't been aware of, such as one in "Witchcraft," took me by pleasant surprise and deeper into the song. As I listened, I noticed that small, seemingly unimportant, variations in instrumentation (George Tidwell's harmon-muted trumpet; a duo between Monica and Roger Spencer's warm contrabass; a cheeky, Basie-like figure from the piano; a lyrical tenor solo by Denis Solee) gave energy and a sense of lift to this collection of wonderful songs.

Monica Ramey sings with grace and elegance. Sometimes her voice moves into a territory of supple huskiness that I associate with Ella Fitzgerald. Other times, it has an agility and precision reminiscent of Barbra Streisand, someone I know is one of Monica's hugest influences. Monica uses these abilities to deliver the world of the song first to your ears (sometimes it's like she's singing directly to you), then to a much deeper place where you can really feel it. And above everything it's the feeling that's palpable, all the way through to the closing strains of "Why Did I Choose You," the stunning duet between Monica and Beegie that closes the set.

As the music played, I remained pleasurably aware of the grain of emotion, heart, musical honesty and beauty woven throughout this album. And all along the way, the little, subtle things continued to accumulate, creating a harmonious, luminous whole.”
-Anthony Wilson, Jazz guitarist

"Now that the trend of aging rockers cutting albums of show tunes and standards seems thankfully to have run its course, we're back to vocalists with a real feel for and understanding of the jazz tradition doing them justice. Nashville's Monica Ramey is a shining example. Her excellent release Make Someone Happy offers resourceful,
soaring and engaging interpretations of material from The Great American Songbook."
- Ron Wynn, Nashville Scene

I am terrible at this sort of thing, but the title of this piece is intended as a play-on-words involving Lester Young’s nickname for the legendary Jazz vocalist, Billie Holiday.

Lester, himself an iconic tenor saxophonist, called Billie “Lady Day” and she called him “The President” which was later shortened to “Prez.”

His sound on tenor sax blended so well with Billie’s sultry voice that they became forever associated with one another in the minds of many Jazz fans.

Given how well vocalist Monica Ramey works with pianist Beegie Adair, the allusion to Billie Holiday immediately came to mind and was reinforced by the fact that Monica and Beegie are both ladies.

But enough about my poor attempts at word play, let’s turn our attention to Monica and Beegie.

Like Prez and Lady Day, Monica and Beegie were made for each other.

Simple as that.

The interplay between Monica’s song stylings and Beegie’s piano accompaniment is beautiful to behold.

They fit together: nothing strained or exaggerated. The music just flows between them. And although they make it sound so effortless, what they do together and how well they do it is really rare and very special.

Ron Wynn, writing in the January 26, 2012 edition of The Nashville Scene describes it this way:

“According to Adair, Monica has a really good ear. “She can hear things in a song and do things vocally that give me a lot of freedom as an accompanist. There are so many singers who have pitch problems. She's also a really hard worker. She pays attention and always strives for the right sound. Of course, she's studied under Sandra (Dudley), so you know she's gotten really good instruction.’

‘Beegie is a vocalist's pianist,’ Ramey responds when asked what she likes about working with Adair. ‘She knows lyrics. She's thoughtful about musical conversations, and she creates so many avenues. If I just take the right approach, I know she'll provide me with what I need.’

‘There are not many singers who can hear those harmonic opportunities if the pianist takes them,’ Adair says. ‘There are some singers I've played behind that never knew what to do if you tried to go in a different direction. Monica can make those moves. She really allows me to take a song in any direction.’”

In an ideal world, Monica and Beegie would be appearing together at a supper club near you every weekend. Of course, bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown would have to be there, too; nothing like a bassist to frame the bottom of the chord and the swishing sound of brushes on a snare drum and riveted ride cymbal to add dimension to the music.

You’d take your best girl or guy [sounds better than “significant other”] for an early dinner and while relaxing over a nice bottle of wine, Monica and Beegie’s trio would play two, one hour sets at 8:30 and 10:30 PM filling your soul with the beauty of Jazz that is sung and played to perfection.

Have you ever noticed how approachable Jazz vocalists and musicians are?  Jazz is an intimate music and I love hearing it performed in an intimate setting. It’s great when you can reach out to one of the musicians and compliment them on their playing, or request a tune to be played during the next set or ask them to autograph their latest CD.

Perhaps Monica would have already sung some of your favorite tunes in the first set, songs like – As Long As I Live, I Thought About You [Johnny Mercer’s lyrics!], I’ll Close My Eyes, Witchcraft, This Could Be The Start Of Something Big, or Oh! Look at Me Now.

And maybe Monica would agree to close the second set with just she and Beegie at the piano poignantly performing Why Did I Choose You? sending everybody home holding hands and dreamy-eyed with the lovely lyrics and beautiful melody of this Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin tune still fresh in their minds.

The musicianship that Monica and Beegie display is so good and made for such a delightful evening for you and your guest that you drop by the bandstand on your way out to thank them for the treat and promise to return the following weekend.

And when you do, Monica and Beegie’s trio sing and play more of your favorite songs among them: Lullaby of the Leaves, Whisper Not and Will You Still Be Mine?

They also introduce you to some music that is new to you like You Fascinate Me So and It Amazes Me – both by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh and Fly Away with words and music by Lori Meecham and Beegie Adair.

Unfortunately, this ideal world does not exist as many of us do not have a chance to drop by our local Jazz bistro and supper club and listen to Monica and Beegie on a regular basis [although if you are in the NYC area, they will be appearing at Birdland on May 2, 2013].

So what’s the next best thing?

How about a CD of Monica, Beegie, Roger and Chris performing all of the tunes, one that you can listen to over and over again to your heart’s content?

If this is the case, then your heart will be contented because such a CD is set to be released next month.

Chris DiGirolamo and his team at Two for The Show Media is handling the press and publicity for the forthcoming CD by Monica and Beegie Adair’s Trio which will be available for purchase on February 26, 2013.

Chris has this to say about Monica, Beegie and the recording in his media relations release:

© -Chris DiGirolamo/Two For The Show Media; used with permission, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Vocalist Monica Ramey and The Beegie Adair Trio release Self-titled debut from the Adair Music Group. February 26'", 2013

Vocalist Monica Ramey's much-anticipated new album, 'Monica Ramey and the Beegie Adair Trio' (Adair Music Group) is coming! Ramey's sophomore album accentuates the undeniable chemistry of one of the world's most successful jazz trios (Beegie Adair, piano; Roger Spencer, bass; Chris Brown, drums) with a vocalist (Ramey) who elegantly interweaves lush, lyrical sophistication to an already immaculate musical conversation. Produced by Adair and Spencer, the album also features on two of the trio and Ramey's most beloved musical mates, jazz masters George Tidwell and Denis Sole, on several tracks. The result is the introduction and re-introduction of some of jazz's much adored and forgotten songs and the introduction of an original tune, co-written by Adair.

"The album is special because I learned these songs listening to the trio, live, over the years at their weekly Nashville gig. They are all extremely accessible and easy to love." boasts Ramey "I adore the trio's signature interpretation of a few standards, as well as many tunes that are more obscure to even the truest of jazz fans. So, it's a pleasure to be able to share them with everyone and with such incomparable company."

"Producing this project with Roger was an absolute joy." Adair states. "I'm extremely proud of this album and believe the trio's fans will thoroughly enjoy it. Monica's growing fan base will surely adore it as well. There are really so many reasons to love this album, including the fact that it really swings!"

About Monica Ramey:

This kind of reaction is a reoccurring theme in the case of Midwest native Monica Ramey and artists like Donna McElroy, Jim Ferguson, Denis Solee, Jeff Steinberg, Lori Mechem, Roger Spencer, George Tidwell, Sandra Dudley and Beegie Adair are just a few who are singing her praise.

Monica is a native of Francesville, one of Indiana's smallest towns. The youngest of three children, her father is a retired farmer and her mother a retired music teacher. As a child, Monica would sing and dance on stage with her mother's high school show choir, and at the age of 3, she stood on the grand piano at the school's cabaret and performed Tomorrow from the musical, Annie. By the age of 11, she had become well known in Indiana after starring in several local and professional Broadway musical productions. As a teenager, she studied at the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts, and in 1995, Monica was selected to become a member of the GRAMMY National All American High School Jazz Band and Choir.

This break would become one of the most important opportunities in Monica's life. Being one of 12 selected nationally for the choir, Monica had little jazz experience, but while performing with some of the music industry's finest, she discovered the impact of jazz music in her own life and in our society. The responsibility all performers have to its preservation and authenticity left a profound and lasting impact on her.

Monica studied Music Performance at Indiana State University and was a member of the ISU Jazz Singers. She became a favorite singer among many faculty members and even the President of the university. This led to many performances at university functions and sporting events. She interned for the NARAS Foundation in Los Angeles, where the preservation of jazz music became a focal point of her responsibilities.

In 2000, she moved to Nashville to pursue her singing career, where she discovered the Nashville Jazz Workshop. NJW has given Monica the opportunity to study under some of Nashville finest musicians including Lori Mechem, Roger Spencer, Sandra Dudley, Beegie Adair, Jeff Steinberg, Rod McGaha, Jim Ferguson, Roy Agee, Annie Sellick as well as create a family away from home.

On her debut album, Make Someone Happy, Monica is joined by the Lori Mechem Trio and special guest, Beegie Adair. This special project hosts many standard tunes with horn arrangements by Denis Solee and two original tunes by Lori Mechem, Beegie Adair and Hal Stephens. Produced by Lori Mechem, Roger Spencer and Sandra Dudley, the album captures the finest example of Monica's musical capabilities at this point in her career. Make Someone Happy is receiving international airplay on jazz radio, Pandora, Music Choice and DMX to name a few.

Her much-anticipated second album, Monica Ramey and the Beegie Adair Trio, accentuates the undeniable chemistry of one of the world's most successful jazz trios (Beegie Adair, piano; Roger Spencer, bass; Chris Brown, drums) with a vocalist (Ramey) who elegantly interweaves lush, lyrical sophistication to an already immaculate musical conversation. Produced by Adair and Spencer, the album also features on two of the trio and Ramey's most endeared musical mates, jazz masters George Tidwell and Denis Sole, on several tracks. The result is the introduction and re-introduction of some of jazz's most beloved and forgotten songs and the introduction of an original tune, co-written by Adair.

Monica performs regularly in various venues, festivals and private events throughout the U.S. including the legendary Birdland, Nashville Jazz Workshop, F. Scott's and many others. When not studying or performing, Monica enjoys spending time with her friends, her family and volunteering for the Nashville Jazz Workshop. Monica also supports the Man & Woman of the Year campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.”

Here are two links at which you can purchased the CD after its release date of 2/26/2013:

This video montage is set to Monica’s duo with Beegie on Why Did I Choose You? The sheer beauty of this piece may tempt you to hold your breath for 4:54 minutes. Probably not a good idea.