For many years, Dolores Turner Alexandria was something of a secret among lovers of vocal jazz, cherished by the few that knew of her albums on King, Impulse, Argo/Cadet, Pzazz and – more recently – Discovery, Trend and Muse. Then, a couple of years ago, a few visionary DJs began playing her Argo recording of Baltimore Oriole – which quickly snowballed into a latter-day club classic, and finally threw a larger spotlight on the work of this great Chicago chanteuse. Despite Oriole’s popularity, there has been few reissues of the 20 or so albums she made in a 25-year period. Until now: Ace’s BGP imprint has started at the very beginning, and is delighted to bring you the lady’s first two LPs, directly from the original master tapes, as first released in 1957 by Cincinnati’s King imprint.
At the time of making THIS IS LOREZ and LOREZ SINGS PRES, Lorez Alexandria was in her mid-20s, and being hailed as a vocalist of considerable originality. On both sets, she is backed by a set of true all-stars under the direction of her mentor and original employer King Fleming – a noted Chicago jazz pianist.
Both albums in this package were also released in the UK in the late 1950s but not in LP format. The first came out as three EPs rather than as an album, the second as a 10-inch set at a time when record companies were beginning to phase them out in favour of the higher-fi, 12-inch format. Both have been unavailable here for almost half a century, so I’m delighted to see these two exemplary sets of vocal jazz receiving their UK CD debut. Especially as the second half of the programme offers a vocal tribute to one of my own great musical heroes, the great “Prezzzerini”.
There’s plenty here for the lover of great songs, great singing and great musicianship. “This Is…” features Lorez’ original take on Baltimore Oriole, which itself has now become massively popular among mod jazzers, in the wake of the Argo cut’s club success.
Then there’s the sumptuously pure and clear tone of Ms Alexandra’s singing, which – indirectly or otherwise – must have influenced the next generation of Chi-Town’s soul fillies (I’m especially thinking Jackie Ross and Barbara Acklin here). As for the players, King Fleming seemed incapable of picking a bad band mate. Star performers, whether they be bassman Eldee Young (later of the Ramsey Lewis Trio and his own Young-Holt Unlimited), vibes player Charles Stepney (who eventually moved into record production with Chess and who was a major instigator in the foundation of both Rotary Connection and Earth, Wind & Fire) or bass-trumpeter and former Woody Herman band alumnus Cy Touff, are front and centre throughout this set and provide some of the most exquisite musicianship to be heard behind any jazz vocal record of their era.
This set provides a fitting, if somewhat belated, testimony to Lorez Alexander’s talents (she died in 2001) for old fans and newer ones alike.
By Tony Rounce