Mary Stallings sings 12 excellent and soulful interpretations of songs by such great composers as Cole Porter, Burton Lane, Louis Prima, and Duke Ellington on her second release for the Maxjazz label, Live at the Village Vanguard. Her voice is strong, rich, and full of the introspection that only comes with musical growth. Accompanied by Ron Blake on tenor saxophone, Eric Reed on piano, Vicente Archer on bass, and Carl Allen on drums, Stallings is in touch with her music and in sync with her emotions on such notables as "You're Sensational," "Sunday Kind of Love," "All Night Long," and "I Didn't Know About You." Mary Stallings brings her seductive concept to listeners and will floor you with her exceptional phrasing on "Sunday Kind of Love" and "All Night Long." Both songs are further punctuated by tender piano stylings from Eric Reed that fill each lyric, each note, with Stallings' soulful presence, subtlety, and timeless timbre. Reed also arranged all of the songs performed on the program. Tenor saxophonist Ron Blake brings his own brand of intensity to a great solo on "Gypsy in My Soul" by blending light floating tones with hard tones and emotional coolness. His innovative bebop phrases develop the song and make it even more accessible from the perspective of an instrumental voice as a foil for the human voice. Blake provides another level of involvement for the listener with his soulful nuance on "The Thrill Is Gone" as he and Mary Stallings trade phrases at the coda. This song is great. Live at the Village Vanguard is by far her best recording because she is at the height of her musical powers, four-octave range, and is singing songs that are intimate to her but speak to the soul in everyone.
Reviews"The vocalist, who got her start with the bands of Cal Tjader, Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie, wraps her slightly gospel-inflected pipes around a set of jazz standards and obscurities with true elegance. Live At The Village Vanguard is a soulful body of tunes..." - Portland Oregonian