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July/August 2003

Nancy Harrow
Winter Dreams
Artists House

Nancy Harrow has never known the meaning of the word compromise. She has spent four decades fighting the dragons of pop puerility. Her reward? Perhaps one percent of the recognition she truly deserves. Harrow's latest, Winter Dreams: The Life and Passions of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Artists House), has about as much chance for widespread appeal as caviar blintzes at McDonald's. The wise minority with the wisdom to recognize the clarity of Harrow's vision will, however, be richly rewarded. The album's 12 tracks, all written by Harrow, are less a musical biography than a gallery of hand-tinted X-rays that lay bare the hopes, dreams, fears and self-loathing of Fitzgerald's checkered life. Grady Tate, surely the finest jazz baritone since Billy Eckstine, is cast as F. Scott, with Harrow playing an assortment of supporting roles, including Zelda, Sheila Graham and Daisy Buchanan. These dozen snapshots capture a bracingly broad spectrum of emotions, extending from the youthful idealism of "This Side of Paradise" ("I'm young / I'm smart / I'm making cash from art") and naked ambition of "You'll Never Get to East Egg" to the money-hungry tap dance of "Dear Max" and the haunting desolation of the title track. A stunning achievement, Harrow's jazz-tinged salute to the most iconic of all Jazz Age figures is made all the more admirable by her commitment to donate all proceeds to the not-for-profit Artists House, supporting her unflagging commitment to "rescue the recording business from egregious commercialism."

Originally published in July/August 2003
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