WYNTERS, Gail: My Shining Hour
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I don't want to be presumptuous in extolling Gail Wynters' singing capabilities, her warmth, exquisite sound, time and phrasing. As a discerning purchaser of Naxos Jazz releases you obviously have your own set of criteria for judging the value of a performer. After Sarah, Ella, Anita, Carmen and Dianne there certainly is fertile ground for comparison. Of course, my having mentioned Gail's name along with that crowd gives you the drift about where I feel she should be rated.
Gail and my relationship goes back to when we were beginning our careers. We both are from the same general area of the United States, I being a Cincinnati native and Gail coming from Ashland, Kentucky, far enough south to add that charm to her speech and therefore to her lyric reading. Local live daytime television was common in those bygone days and I played in one or two of the television bands in Cincinnati. It was always a treat when Gail would make an appearance to plug an album and/or an appearance at a club. All the area musicians were captivated by her spark and swing and it was my privilege to work with her in her club appearances as well as on TV.
Gail was raised, along with three sisters, in the tradition of the Nazarene church of her preacher father. It is obvious from the first notes she sings that the profound blues roots of Gospel have a deep-seated influence to this day and she seamlessly interjects them into her jazz interpretation. Her family was quite musically developed and Gail toured with them, performing in revival meetings and on the radio, fostering a large following for the group. Naturally, the music had country gospel roots, but Gail was lucky enough to have a father who also introduced her to the recordings of Billie Holiday, Art Tatum and Fats Waller.
Before she migrated to New York, Gail was invited to sing with every band on the campus of her alma mater, Eastern Kentucky University. She became so popular that when she departed for the east coast her friends and associates declared a Gail Wynters Day, accompanying her to the train station, with Gail tightly clutching the key to the city presented by the Mayor!
There is an elite crowd of New Yorkers who have followed Gail Wynters' singing career over the years, and her performances have elicited rave reviews. Noted New York Times writer on jazz, John S. Wilson, gave her a glowing write-up in the Critic's Choice: What's Best in All the Arts section of that newspaper. She has worked on significant projects with some of America's premier jazz musicians, including Roger Kellaway, Dick Katz, Lionel Hampton and Rufus Reid, frequently tours to South America and Europe, and has recorded for Capitol Records and RCA Victor. Included in a recent recording, special guest blues pianist and singer, Dr. John, was featured with Gail in a duet performance. However, and with some pride as producer, I feel that this is the first recording Gail has made which is totally jazz orientated, and long, long overdue.
Starting with a swinging version of Cole Porter's, I Love You, Gail and the band show that this album is serious jazz, full of intensity and energy. The Very Thought of You is given a Latin treatment and performed at a faster tempo than usual for this standard. There are duos with piano and guitar, a classic rendition of We'll Be Together Again, and some great underperformed tunes like Sweet Pumpkin and The Right To Love. A bit of funk comes into play on the great Come Rain or Come Shine, where the guys and Gail let it all hang out. The ballads are full of meaning and the up tempos cook -- everything a listener could ask for.
Bill Cunliffe, the pianist on the date, has distinguished himself with several albums as leader on the Warner/Discovery Label. He has worked with the Clayton/Hamilton Big Band and with vocalist Maureen McGovern. Bassist Ed Howard has been a stalwart member of the Roy Haynes quartet and records frequently with the likes of Bob Berg. Drummer Danny D'Imperio's resume includes several recordings as leader of a quintet on the VSOP label, and stints with Woody Herman and Anita O'Day. Veteran guitarist Joe Puma needs no introduction to jazz fans, having been featured with and recorded with innumerable jazz artists.
Check out Gail and the band's swing on I Remember You, or her most soulful version of We'll Be Together Again. What more need I say?
- Gordon Brisker, September, 1998