MAMIE LEE: Once In A Lifetime (Label: Poker)

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MAMIE LEE: Once In A Lifetime

Mamie Lee is best known for her lilting ’67 song ‘I Can Feel Him Slipping Away’ which for many years was a Northern club favourite. However that delicious mid-tempo floater is atypical of a singer who saw herself primarily as jazz lounge artist and as such that’s how she tried to make her living. She began her career in the Boston area in the ’50s but the big break came in 1960 when she successfully auditioned for Duke Ellington. Soon she was fronting her own jazz trio – the Swingmen – comprising pianist Carlton Schroeder, drummer Peter Donald and bassist Phil Morrison. In 1965 they landed a recording contract with MGM who had them work with top producer Don Costa. The result was the cool, jazzy 12 tracker – ‘Once In A Lifetime’ – now lovingly reissued by Cherry Red subsidiary, Poker. The songs were chiefly taken from the great American standard songbook and Ms. Lee does an excellent job on oft-recorded items like ‘Come Back To Me’, ‘A Foggy Day’, ‘My Funny Valentine’ and the nostalgia-fueled ‘Once Upon A Time’. Vocally her style is similar to Nancy Wilson’s though listen hard and you may also detect, maybe, some influence from Esther Philips. Costa ensures that the trio keeps things intimate and as an example of mid ’60s lounge jazz the set is hard to beat. As a bonus Poker have added both sides of the lady’s 1967 single – that Northern in-demander ‘I Can Feel Him Slipping Away’ and a very decent Dr. John song’ The Show Is Over’. Both offer real contrasts to the earlier jazz cuts and are worth investigating in their own right.
(BB) 3/5