Artist: Ebony Jo-Ann
Album: Please Save Your Love For Me
Label: Self Released
Release Date: 09/18/2015
It all comes back to the blues. Ebony Jo-Ann is a highly decorated and respected vocalist and actress across both stage and film. She has performed on historic stages and venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as well as in performing arts houses, music festivals and jazz clubs all over the world. You might think that the last thing she needed to do was put out a self-released blues album, but in another sense it was inevitable that she deliver this labor of love, having played the roles of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith on the stage. Inspired by Ashford and Simpson and prodded by many of the finest R&B, blues and jazz musicians in New York, Ebony gives us a high quality debut, an evenly split array of original and cover songs. Ebony is not a songwriter, but had plenty of gifted songwriters step forward to help because they wanted her to sing their songs. And, of course, she is backed by many talented players spanning different music genres. While Ashford and Simpson’s “Just Rain” features the full complement of horns and background singers, “Sittin’ on Top of the World” has only Ebony’s voice backed by Guy Davis on various strings and harmonica.
You can immediately sense her professionalism in her phrased and controlled vocal delivery, at turns mournful, joyful or bawdy. As she says, “I chose to record the Blues because it allows me to sing any type of music I please and understand that it all comes from the Blues, part of my DNA.” She chose some nice covers, too. The title track is a Bobby “Blue” Bland tune, and producer/guitarist Danny Lean duets of Percy Mayfield’s “Send Me Someone to Love.” She also does classy interpretations of “Is It Because I’m Black” and “Muddy Water.” Among the five originals, especially notable are “So Glad I Waited for Love” and “Nosybody.” This is not the gritty, howling blues you hear from today’s vocalists. There are touches of it, but Ebony will remind you more of classic voices like Nancy Wilson or Helen Humes. The bar was set really high for Ebony Jo-Ann, and she exceeded it.
– Jim Hynes