After barely appearing on record for the last quarter century, the simmering, throaty baritone of Andy Bey has suddenly become the toast of several towns–notably New York, where he lives and where his 1996 album Ballads, Blues & Bey (Evidence) has attracted the most attention. On it, Bey sings songs by Ellington, Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Cole Porter, accompanied only by his own minimal piano playing and mostly at speeds so slow they would have a snail tapping its foot. But instead of dragging the songs down, Bey’s chosen tempi open them up to the soulful nuances of his sunny mid-register and his easily accessed falsetto, and foster a renewed appreciation for the details of these almost too-familiar classics. Bey has a few Chicago connections: after the breakup of his first group, the family vocal trio called Andy and the Bey Sisters, he played piano for Chicago saxist Eddie Harris, then studied with AACM giants Muhal Richard Abrams and Steve McCall in the 60s (before joining Horace Silver to sing his infamous “love-peace-and-vegetables” lyrics in the early 70s). But his most important local connection concerns Jazz Unites founder Geraldine de Haas (nee Bey)–one of the aforementioned sisters–with whom Bey will perform in a rare Chicago visit Friday, August 29, at 12:15 PM in the Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Stephanie Bodini.