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Irene Reid: One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show

Imagine a well-aged Billie Holiday imbued with Dinah Washington’s rollicking blues sensibility and you’ll begin to appreciate the magic of Irene Reid. Like so many gifted jazz singers of her generation, Reid burned briefly hot in the early 1950s, retired too young, eased her way back into the business in Europe, then became an underappreciated staple at various New York nightspots. In recent years, the Savannah-born sexagenarian has been enjoying a richly deserved renaissance thanks to a solid series of albums for Savant.

One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, Reid’s fourth Savant release, shows her in top form, surrounded by such terrific sidemen as guitarist Randy Johnston, trumpeter James Rotondi and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, with Bobby Forrester pumping away on the Hammond B-3 organ that Reid’s so fond of. Moving through an eclectic assortment of covers, she takes the Beatles’ “Things We Said Today” for a jaunty spin, serves up a warmly sedate version of the Gladys Knight anthem “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and rescues “I’ve Gotta Be Me” from Sammy Davis overdrive, reminding us that it was always meant to be an unadorned salute to quiet self-respect. Reid is even more satisfying when dipping into the blues basket for such Dinahesque paeans to satisfied self-reliance as “I’m Gettin’ Tired,” “Ain’t Nobody Sleepin’ in My Bed” and Joe Tex’s quirky title track, originally made famous by Big Maybelle.

But none of One Monkey’s tunes can quite compare to Reid’s stirring interpretation of O.C. Smith’s “If the World Should End Tomorrow.” Quite simply, a spectacular song spectacularly well done.

Originally Published