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Andy Bey: The World According to Andy Bey

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For a while it seemed Andy Bey had disappeared altogether. But six years since the fine Ain’t Necessarily So, Bey is back, albeit in a whisper-quiet way. Bey’s magnificent, blues-soaked baritone remains in remarkably good shape, his interpretative poignancy sharpened by the inevitable scratches and scars that come with age, experience and a prolonged battle with illness.

Alone at the piano, Bey transforms a half-dozen standards into soul-deep ruminations, lending even the perky “The Joint Is Jumpin'” and buoyant “‘S Wonderful” an air of studied introspection. He brings the same sense of meticulously plotted navigation to a couple of Harold Arlen rarities, the pensive “Dissertation on the State of Bliss,” written by Arlen with Ira Gershwin, and Arlen and Dory Previn’s stirring ode to precognitive heartache, “The Morning After.”

Rounding out the playlist are four Bey originals, uniformly inspired while strikingly unique. The wordless, bebop-hued scat of “Dedicated to Miles” is based on Davis and Charlie Parker’s commingling on Parker’s “Cheryl.” “The Demons Are After You,” a freeform exercise in blank verse, espouses getting out of one’s own way to find “God, truth [and] reality.” The sly, angular “There’s So Many Ways to Approach the Blues” distills those myriad approaches down to a single truth. Most profound is “Being Part of What’s Happening Now,” which takes storm-cloud awareness of the world’s ills and tenderly turns it inside out, inching toward cautious optimism.

Originally Published