Vocalist Beverly Lewis does not worry about the particulars of proper jazz vocals on All Shades of Blues, because she is also a blues singer, and the two vocal styles often have different agendas. Lewis, however, has but one agenda: stepping up to the microphone and belting out whatever song she is singing con brio and in full command. Couple this inhibition with a very fine band led by guitarist/husband John Fifield, and a brush fire is sure to start and spread.
Right out of the chute, Lewis goes on the prowl with DenisLaSalle's warning shot, "Someone Else is Steppin' In," fueled by Fifield's slinky, full-throated slide guitar. Having established her blues bona fides, Lewis moves on to Joe Zawinul's soul-jazz standard "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," singing at full throttle. Bobby Charles' "The Jealous Kind" is played with a slight country tinge, Fifield's solid slide guitar tempering the piece as a country-blues hybrid.
The pairing of "Every Day I have The Blues" and "Fine and Mellow" is as inspired as its slick arrangement, burning intensely and scorching all behind it, making it a great set closer. The Miles Davis/Oscar Brown, Jr. "All Blues" provides Lewis an excellent jazz vehicle with a blues subtext, as the singer negotiates the piece with precision and class, never overdoing it in the technical department. BuddyJohnson's "Since I Fell for You," provides an Etta James vibe, taking the edge off the disc's hard blues.
But that is only for a second, because "It's About Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)" follows, and is a barnburner that takes full example of Randy Singer's LittleWalter Jacobs-informed harmonica playing. All Shades of Blues should bring Lewis some much deserved attention: her forceful singing and robust delivery have genuine soul; her band is tight; and her repertoire solid.
Track listing: Someone Else Steppin' In; Mercy, Mercy, Mercy; The Jealous Kind; Everyday I Have the Blues/Fine and Mellow; All Blues; Since I Fell for You; It's Live Baby (24 Hours a Day); Mad About Him , Sad Without Him Blues; Love Me Like a Man; Howlin' Dog Blues.
Personnel: Beverly Lewis: vocals; John Fifield: guitars; Gabriel Vivas: electric and acoustic bass; Goran Rista: drums (2, 3, 6, 7,9) Lee Levin: drums (1, 4, 5, 8); Paul Banman: keyboards (1-7); Doug Emery: keyboards (9); Sammy Figurosa: percussion (2); Randy Singer: harmonica (1, 6, 7); Teddy Mulet: brass (5, 8); David Fernandez: reeds (2, 4, 7, 9) Gabe Vales: bass (3).
Beverly Lewis: Press
Have you ever taken a look at the list of the "50 Greatest Female Jazz Vocalists"? I have, and it's quite a revered list of ladies. However, with Ella, Billie, Sarah and Dinah being 1, 2, 3, & 4 and Diane Schuur, Etta James, Irene Reid, Ruth Brown and other names familiar to us blues lovers filling out the list, I think the list should be re-named the 50 Greatest Female Jazz And Blues Singers. Amen to that!
Now I'm not saying that Beverly Lewis is ready for the top 50 list just yet, but she's surely an excellent female jazz singer who can belt out the blues. That's exactly what you'll hear her doing on her latest CD titled "All Shades Of Blues". Backing her up musically are John Fifield on guitars, Gabriel Vivas on electric & acoustic bass, Goran Rista and Lee Levin on drums, Paul Banman and Doug Emery on keyboards, Sammy Figueroa on percussion, Randy Singer on harmonica, Teddy Mulet on brass, David Fernandez on reeds, and Gabe Vales on electric bass. BTW, should you be wondering where you heard some of those names before, think Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Miami Sound Machine and Yanni.
From a strictly musical viewpoint, the "Every Day I Have The Blues" / "Fine And Mellow" medley was most enjoyable listening. On this particular track the band is in such a smooth, jazzy groove with each instrument involved sounding so wonderfully sharp. Now, throw Beverly into the mix and WOW!
Being one of the more popular standards, there probably aren't many ladies of song that don't have "Since I Fell For You" in their repertoire. But it's not how many who sing it, it's how many who sing it this beautifully that matters. Equally as beautiful is Randy's harmonica playing.
More often than not, jazz singers tend to stick to the standards...particularly ballads. Yet, every once in a while you'll hear them belt out a smoker - "It's Love Baby" (24 Hours A Day) that's Beverly's smoker and man is she belting it out. That, along with fiery hot rhythm, scorching guitar and wicked harp, by far make this the deepest shade of all the shades of blues
Just as I was thinking that "Mad About Him, Sad Without Him Blues", was about to end, the song - much like the title - makes a radical change in attitude. This one starts out as a mellow, low-toned, sultry sounding ballad, then BAM! out of nowhere it all gets louder, faster and furious. Imagine the look on the slow dancers faces. Musically this one's highlighted by Bev's vocals and Ted's trumpet.
The best track on the CD could very well be "Love Me Like A Man". The opening forty five seconds features such a deep, heavy rhythm and scorching guitar riffs that Gabriel, Goran and John - on bass, drums and guitar - had me wishing this was an instrumental...until Beverly started singing. The strength of her voice, the way she holds her notes and her wide vocal range all blew me away on this one.
The disc closes with one of the shortest, and one of the most unique tracks these ears have ever heard. It's also the only time I ever recall seeing a dog being given composer credits. Being the only original, it was written by Beverly, her husband John Fifield and their dog Scarlet - who sings on the track as well. As John picks a few short chords on an acoustic guitar, Beverly instructs Scarlet to "sing the blues baby" and the dog, right on time and right on key as well, starts "Howlin' The Blues". Very cute.
Other tracks on "All Shades Of Blues" include: "Someone Else Is Steppin' In", "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", "The Jealous Kind" and "All Blues".
Beverly Lewis can be reached at - you guessed it - www.beverlylewis.net. Stop by, grab a disc, read her storied bio and of course, tell her the Blewzzman sent ya.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient
Beverly Lewis - All Shades of Blues
10 songs; 38:16 minutes; Meritable
Styles: Jazzy Blues and Bluesy Jazz
Jazz...or...Blues? How about Jazz and Blues! The origins of these two genres are similar, owing to African Americans of the 1800s and 1900s under European descendents’ musical influences. There are differences, but one would be hard pressed to clearly and succinctly state them in just a sentence or two. Blurring lines between and employing elements of both comes Florida’s veteran Jazz songstress Beverly Lewis.
“All Shades of Blues” is a collection of nine cover songs featuring a sample of all different kinds of Blues from various writers such as Denise LaSalle, Joe Zawinul, and Miles Davis to Peter Chatman. Swing dancers and Blues dancers, should have fun dancing to this release.
The musicianship is one of the highlights of the CD. A very fine band is led by Lewis’s producer, engineer, music arranger, guitarist and husband John Fifield with Randy Singer on harmonica, Goran Rista and Lee Levin on drums, Sammy Figueroa on percussion, Gabe Vales on electric bass, Gabriel Vivas on electric and acoustic bass, Paul Banman and Doug Emery on keyboards, Teddy Mulet on brass, and David Fernandez on reeds.
Lewis kicks off the album with one of the Bluesiest numbers, Denise LaSalle's upbeat “Someone Else Is Steppin' In” opened and propelled by Fifield's sweet, studied slide guitar. Randy Singer adds a tasty harp solo at mid song.
The fourth track is a medley pairing “Every Day I have The Blues” and “Fine and Mellow.” Here is one of the best examples of the full band in a smooth, jazzy groove arrangement with Lewis mixing in some scatting with the vocals. Shining brightly, each player’s sounds are cohesive elements of the well oiled overall mix.
Opening with Singer’s wonderful chromatic harp, “Since I Fell for You," provides an opportunity for Lewis to wrap her arms, legs, and voice around her man in this mid tempo, most popular love song.
The very next song is an abrupt turn, a real burner: "It's Love Baby" (24 Hours a Day).” Beverly belts out the lyrics while the rhythm kicks under a smoking guitar and wild harp. This shade of Blues is the rocking shade!
The disc ends with nineteen seconds of fun. It’s a unique track with a dog being given co-composer credits. The only original on the CD, it was written by Beverly, John Fifield, and their dog Scarlet who does the “singing.” As John picks a few short acoustic guitar notes,
Beverly coaxes Scarlet to “sing the blues baby” and the dog performs “Howlin' Dog Blues.”Honestly, my cat didn’t really like it.
Across the set, Lewis’s voice is confident, pleasant and entertaining displaying both power and range. I would be happy to someday catch Beverly Lewis performing in a Florida night spot, especially if she’s backed by the guitar and harp work heard on this CD.!
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE.
All Shades Of Blues
Offering up a mix of bluesy jazz vocals covering some well known song standards, All Shades Of Blues is a fine introduction to the art of singer Beverly Lewis. Recording in South Florida, Beverly gets fine support from some gifted musicians including guitarist John Fifield—a guitar multi-tasker who is often masterful at merging a number of electric guitar sounds and styles, sometimes within the scope of a single song. Covers highlighted on the ten track, 38 minute CD include fine renditions of the Cannonball Adderly classic, written by Joe Zawinal, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and the B.B. King favorite “Everyday I Have the Blues”, here blending in the Billie Holiday standard “Fine And Mellow.” That uptempo, rockin’ groove is what Ms. Lewis excels at. Some writers have mentioned comparisons between Beverly Lewis and time honored vocal icons like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and after hearing her album it's hard to argue with that point. Backing up Beverly's musical appeal here are top players such as Sammy Figueroa (percussion), Randy Singer (harmonica), and Lee Levin and Göran Rista (drums). In addition to fine mixing from Göran Rista and mastering by Bob Katz, the CD also benefits from a number of horn players, including those who have worked with jazz-rock icon Blood, Sweat & Tears. Offering an interesting contrast to John Fifield’s work on his recent solo album, It Is What It Is... the sound of All Shades Of Blues is very well recorded and overall the CD presents an impressive album of solid jazzy blues. www.BeverlyLewis.net
mwe3.com presents an interview
with BEVERLY LEWIS
mwe3.com: Where do you draw inspiration from musically and what artists and favorite recordings are part of your important musical influences?
Beverly Lewis: I get inspired by good music in general. It really depends on the mood that I'm in, but generally speaking, I love soul, blues and jazz. Growing up, I heard a lot of Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis and big band music. Because I grew up mainly in Toledo, which is outside of Detroit, Motown was the big thing. Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and then later Bob Seger were some of my favorites. I absolutely love good soulful Gospel music, which is why I think Aretha is the best, piano wise and vocally. When Janis Joplin first came out with "Piece of my Heart" I was completely impressed with her. However, I have to say, I think one of the best male vocalists had to be Lou Rawls. In the 70's, I fell in love with Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King and Delbert McClinton. I really love all kinds of swing. Grand Funk Railroad was also a big favorite. In the early ‘80s Ernestine Anderson—who is like a female Lou Rawls—and Denise LaSalle became a couple of my favorite singers to listen to along with revisiting Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. At that time I was just starting to really get into Miles Davis also.
mwe3.com: You started performing at a very early age. Did you go through formal musical and/or vocal training and what songs did you like to sing and want to sing early in your career?
BL: I can't remember a time that I wasn't singing and dancing. The short time that we lived in Chicago was the first time that I sang in a show, I was probably about 4. When we moved to Toledo, I first started taking ballet at 6 and at 7 started taking singing lessons from Lola Smith. Lola and her ex-husband used to have a local radio show. I also studied drama and did shows at the repertoire theatre. Between my singing teacher and doing musicals I learned a lot of standard tunes which have served me well through the years.
I used to sing jingles for some local radio ads and my first band gigs were with the Johnny Knorr Big Band and with the Dixieland Jazz band. I had a blast with the jazz Band. So much fun. Now I'm very partial to singing with horns. Plus, I love to swing dance and that fills the bill. I love singing and performing and feel more like myself on stage than off.
mwe3.com: How did the making of All Shades Of Blues take shape and what are some of your favorite songs on the album? Your versions of "Everyday I Have The Blues" and "Mercy, Mercy Mercy" are definite highlights.
BL: Well for many years I got hired to sing what other people wanted me to sing whether it was top 40 or rock or recording jingles and singing for dance school records. But I came to a point in my life that I just decided to sing the music that I enjoy singing and put it to CD. So really, I made the album for me and hoped that when others heard it, that they would like it also.
I'm not quite sure which song I would pick off the album as my favorite, because I like all the tunes, but I lean towards "The Jealous Kind." John Fifield plays a really mean slide guitar on it, which I love. I remember hearing “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” growing up and every time I would go on jazz gigs I would hear it instrumentally and so I decided that I would learn it, so I picked up records of The Buckinghams and Ernestine doing the tune and shed
“Everyday I Have The Blues / Fine and Mellow” is something I just kind of fell into. I had a keyboard player friend back home, Eddie Abrams, that we used to jam together at a club in Toledo called Rusty's and I would sing “Fine And Mellow” with him as a ballad. Then we started doing it as a swing and gradually, I started adding verses from “Everyday I Have The Blues” here and there as we were jamming to it and it evolved into what is on the CD now.
mwe3.com: You also worked in the movie industry in Florida? What did that experience bring to your musical and artistic background and how do you like living, working and recording in Florida?
BL: Yes, I did some Toyota commercials and did some extra work in a few movies down here. I need to get back to that in the not too distant future. But I got to tell you, nothing beats singing in front of a receptive audience. It does my heart good to make people happy and hopefully lighten up their lives. After all that's what entertainment is supposed to do, otherwise we might as well just stick to playing music in
our living rooms.
I love Florida. John, my husband, and I call it our little slice of paradise. Right now, South Florida is really hot for the blues and R&B which just suits me fine. We are lucky to have some very good musicians that play blues and jazz down here. Tracy Fields, a D.J. at WLRN, has been very supportive of the local musicians and singers down here.
mwe3.com: How did you decide what songs were going to be featured on the All Shades Of Blues album and how did you and John Fifield and Teddy Mulet work together on the song arrangements?
BL: Well, we recorded the majority of All Shades Of Blues in our recording Studio, TMB, with the exception of the drums which was done at Goran Rista's studio and Lee Levin's studio.
Teddy Mulet was wonderful to work with. He's so talented. I gave him the idea of what I wanted and he more than did an excellent job especially on “All Blues.” He played all the layers and arranged the horn parts on “Mad About Him, Sad Without Him Blues.” I met Teddy back in the early 80's before he got with the Miami Sound Machine and he was playing bass and working with his then wife, Debbie, who was singing. Now he's been working with Blood, Sweat and Tears. They are very lucky to have him.
mwe3.com: What are you planning to do next musically?
BL: I haven't decided yet, but one thing I can say, is it will be something that I enjoy singing.
Thanks To Beverly Lewis @ www.beverlylewis.net
Singer Beverly Lewis soars with bold confidence and glowing independence on new blues record
September 19, 2011 (Miami, FL) Written by Robert Sutton. It's the slide guitar that grabs the attention first; it sizzles like the hot bellowing of flames. Then a lean, mean harmonica cuts through the air, its presence thick with atmosphere. But the real highlight is the voice that envelopes them both, strutting with bold confidence and completely unchained in providing an icy kiss-off. "I'm a brand new woman," Beverly Lewis proclaims on "Someone Else Is Steppin' In." And as her voice soars with glowing independence, there is no doubt about it.
The blues is an often misunderstood genre. The unenlightened always seem to define it as a depressing musical genre, slow, guitar-driven ballads for the lovelorn. But, contrary to its name, the blues is actually about overcoming despair and not giving in to it. The best blues music is often confrontational. In "Someone Else Is Steppin' In," from her new album, All Shades of Blues, Lewis captures the sense of liberation one feels from splitting from a bad relationship. There is a feeling of empowerment in her voice, a toughness that is lost on a number of today's young blues singers.
Lewis gets it; she understands the real purpose of the blues. But what's even more impressive is her effortless way of combining other musical styles with vintage blues. On "The Jealous Kind," for example, Lewis recalls the crystalline crooning of classic country legends such as Loretta Lynn and the late Patsy Cline. "The Jealous Kind" opens sweetly, allowing Lewis to reel in the listener with a warm caress; however, as the song builds up to profound heartache, one can hear the pain gradually reveal itself in her voice as guitarist John Fifield captures the moment with his bruising riffs.
There is palpable chemistry between Lewis and Fifield, and it's not just because they are also husband and wife. As musicians, they are keenly aware of each other's strengths; quite often Fifield's sharp, passionate guitar work seems to deepen the wounds that Lewis is trying to unveil.
Lewis doesn't adopt the heavy rasp that many female blues vocalists have been sadly attempting, and that is utterly refreshing. On "Since I Fell for You," Lewis drops a velvety smooth jazz vocal that is completely intoxicating, and Randy Singer's lonesome harmonica adds texture and cinematic mood. Without a doubt, All Shades of Blues is among the year's most impressive blues releases.
Vocalist Beverly Lewis knows how to bring the house down, leaving audiences in "All Shades of Blues." Her voice emits a raw power that wallops everything in its path. Although she is able to include the various nuances of jazz and country in her repertoire, it is the blues that Lewis lives and breathes. Her singing, sometimes raspy, sometimes affectionately smooth, reaches into deepest recesses of the heart. On “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In,” Lewis is pulling herself from the wreckage of a shipwrecked relationship. However, she does so with the perseverance of one who refuses to roll over in self-pity. In fact, her voice packs the gritty punch of defiance as John Fifield’s paint-peeling slide guitar and Randy Singer’s heat-seeking harmonica heighten the tension.
On her latest album "All Shades of Blues," Lewis rips open the wall between artist and listener, allowing bottled-up emotions to spill over. On “The Jealous Kind,” Lewis delivers the kind of dewy-eyed performance that used to leave country-music audiences in tears. The standard of melancholy that Lewis is aiming for here was set by Patsy Cline in the ‘50s, and Lewis accomplishes it without sounding retro.
But "All Shades of Blues" isn’t just about break-ups and bitterness. On “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day),” Lewis offers a proclamation of commitment that is vividly conveyed in the breathtaking roar of her singing. Lewis’ versatility is stunning. On “Since I Fell for You,” her jazz crooning cushions the ear with its plush tones; on “Mad About Him, Sad Without Him Blues,” Lewis is more aggressive and is equally effective. Remarkable.
Lewis has been in the entertainment industry for most of her life. At the age of 9 Lewis was already singing in radio commercials in Toledo, Ohio. Her fascination with the blues was triggered by genre icons such as Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Elvis Presley. "All Shades of Blues" is dedicated to her mother, Clara.