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Mary Stallings: Live at the Village Vanguard

Mary Stallings is a classic example of how it takes time, musical seasoning and living a full life to mature as a vocalist and to address a lyric properly. While youthful instrumentalists may have something to say, 20-something vocal ingenues need not apply.

Stallings came on the scene in the late ’50s and her supple voice landed her in rarified air: performing with Louis Jordan, Dizzy Gillespie and Earl “Fatha” Hines for starters. After a semiretirement, and now in the midst of the second stage of her career, Stallings brings a lifetime of emotional intelligence that enables her to truly inhabit a lyric.

After three choice outings for Concord, Stallings’ first for MaxJazz finds her engaging an audience at the Village Vanguard. The selection “You’re Sensational” sums her up perfectly. Stallings doesn’t overwhelm you with sensational timbre and range; her gifts are more subtle, like the introspective way she utters “looove” on the second chorus of “Street of Dreams,” or the sublime ways she demonstrates that she has lived many of the emotions about which she sings. This 12-pack of standards is more than ably delivered and her support, provided by an Eric Reed-led trio augmented by tenorman Ron Blake, lifts and enhances Stallings’ artistry.

Originally Published