Kim Nalley and Houston Person: cultured folk music

Kim Nalley and Houston Person team up on a bluesy ensemble of old-school jazz and R&B favorites.

Bay Area singer Kim Nalley’s name may be listed first on I want a baby boy, the exuberant and soulful new album of his band. But the esteemed tenor saxophonist Houston Person’s nickname sits prominently next to hers, and she considers the recording a joint project. in fact, Person is listed as the album’s co-producer. “Houston and I have been playing together for years and years,” she notes, “and we keep saying, ‘We need to record an album,’ but we were so busy it just didn’t happen. produced so far.” “We’ve developed a great friendship,” confirms Person, who enjoyed a decades-long musical partnership with the late jazz singer Etta Jones. “And we respect each other’s positions. When I work with other artists, I try to bring something — just the feeling of presenting accessible music. Old tunes made in a new way and new tunes… well, just do them!

blues people, from 2015, was highlighted by two Nalley originals, “Big Hooded Black Man” and “Ferguson Blues”, which seem particularly timely in the context of the 2020 social justice protests following George’s murder. Floyd of Minneapolis. “It was more controversial, more protesting,” she admits. “But for this album, Houston and I wanted to do something that made people feel really good.” That approach is epitomized by his charming reimagining of “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the theme song to PBS’s longtime children’s program featuring the late Fred Rogers. “We started doing this a while ago,” she says of her regular band of pianist Tammy Hall, bassist Michael Zisman, drummer Kent Bryson and guitarist Barry Finnerty, who anchor the recording. . “It felt like the world, and especially this country, was so divided, and we kind of forgot we were neighbors. I think this song reminds people of where we want to be and where we should be. no one suggested several other numbers that made the cut.” He definitely selected things I knew that weren’t in my repertoire, like ‘It’s All in the Game,’ a chestnut most associated with the version at hit by Tommy Edwards in 1958. “It was Houston who was proactive. Above all, we wanted to make music for adults. Another example cited by Person is ‘Never Let Me Go’, in which he offers a counterpoint to a exquisite taste in Nalley’s impassioned delivery. “It was sung by a great singer, Johnny Ace, years and years ago,” he recalled. “Songs like that just sit there, neglected. I always tries not to forget them. The title song, meanwhile, has become a highlight thanks to Nalley’s chemistry with a special guest. “I thought it would be great to duet it with someone like Maria Muldaur, who’s like the queen of the Grammys in the blues category,” Nalley said. “My co-producer, Joel Jaffe, recorded Maria on a lot of his albums. Although I knew her from some places, I didn’t have her number, but Joel did and said, ‘Why don’t you call her? -You not ?’ And when I did, she was like, ‘Hey, good to hear from you. Yeah, I’m going to come down and do it.’ The result of this impromptu brainstorming is wonderfully ribald. “I love being bawdy,” Nalley admits. “Usually at a gig I say, ‘It’s time to do the blues. Do you want sad blues, happy blues or mean blues?’ Invariably the audience says they want a bad blues — and I give it to them! The freshness of the performances was no accident. “I always try to bring something new,” admits Person. “I guess that’s my job.” “We click on so many different levels,” Nalley says of the 87-year-old tenor saxophonist great. “He taught me so much – like the show wasn’t over until the last hand was shaken, the last picture was taken, and the last CD was signed. I’m so glad we got to make this album together. Michael Roberts


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