Teri Thornton: I'll Be Easy to Find
Singer Teri Thornton gained fairly wide recognition in the early 1960s but then fell into prolonged obscurity. Recently "rediscovered" by manager/producer Suzi Reynolds, the talented Thornton, now 65 years old and battling cancer, placed in the 1998 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, played the Village Vanguard, and got signed to Verve. I’ll Be Easy to Find is her emotionally charged comeback.
Thornton’s wide, swooping vibrato suggests Sarah Vaughan, but her somewhat dry timbre is closer to Carmen McRae. Her respectable songwriting puts her in the company of Abbey Lincoln, and her quirky pianistics on three cuts recall Nina Simone. On "Somewhere in the Night" and "I’ll Be Seeing You," two of the disc’s ballads, she employs a falsetto effect that is titillating and highly original. Her scatting between verses on the up-tempo "It Ain’t Necessarily So" is hip and distinctive. "Nature Boy" is unconventionally arranged by Suzi Reynolds in a snappy 3/4, and features background horn lines nicely crafted by Howard Johnson.
Other strong points include a chipper, straightforward rendering of Frank Loesser’s "I Believe in You"; the Bart Howard ballad "I’ll Be Easy to Find"; Thornton’s own latin-tinged composition, "Wishing Well"; and Woody Harris’s "Where Are You Running?", also beautifully orchestrated by Johnson. Thornton’s bossa nova adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t work quite as well, and I can do without the cheesy funk of "Feels Good."
Thornton is probably at her best on two original blues numbers. "Salty Mama," the hot closing track, is her winning performance at the 1998 Monk competition. You can easily see how her brashness and confidence won over the crowd: "He left town on the run/ late last night/ caught a midnight train to get a redeye flight/ but I’m a salty mama/ sleepin’ ’fore the sun go down/ I’m gonna call out the posse and have him brought back to town." And on "Knee Deep in the Blues," she manages to squeeze an ad-libbed mouthful into the first four bars of the third chorus, as if thinking out loud. Notice also her autobiographical use of the past tense on this refrain: "I was knee deep in the blues/ knee deep and sinkin’ fast/ my future was being swallowed/ by the quicksands of my past." It’s great to hear this underappreciated songstress at the top of her game, with the hard times hopefully behind her. tracks: 1. Somewhere in the Night 2. I Believe in You 3. It Ain’t Necessarily So 4. The Lord’s Prayer 5. Knee Deep in the Blues 6. I’ll Be Easy to Find 7. Nature Boy 8. Wishing Well 9. Where Are You Running? 10. Feels Good 11. I’ll Be Seeing You 12. Salty Mama personnel: Teri Thornton, vocal (all tracks), piano (7, 10, 11); Howard Johnson, cornet, tuba, contrabass clarinet, baritone saxophone (1, 3, 5, 7-9); Dave Bargeron, trombone (1, 7-9); Jerome Richardson, flute, bass flute, alto saxophone (1, 4, 7-9); Ray Chew, piano (1-6, 8, 9); Norman Simmons, piano (12); Lonnie Plaxico, bass (1-11); Michael Bowie, bass (12); J.T. Lewis, drums (1-11); Grady Tate, drums (12)