Saturday, January 29, 2011
Gail Wynters Sings Her Song
Gail Wynters sings with guitarist Greg Walker in 2006.
photo by Danny O'Bryan
A Jazz Legend Finally Recognized
She lived and performed in New York City for 20 years at some of the most prestigious concert venues on the planet, including Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, and the Village Gate.
She shared the stage and recorded with jazz horn players like James Moody, Jon Faddis, Al Grey and Clark Terry, plus a monster roster of pianists like Adam Makovich, Roger Kellaway and Fred Hersch. The list goes on and on.
Singer Peggy Lee gave her three of her gowns. Jazz great Annie Ross listed her as one of her favorite singers in Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler’s Biographical - Encyclopedia of Jazz.
She was lauded in the New York Times by famed jazz critic John S. Wilson on many occasions.
No, I’m not talking about Ella, Carmen, Sarah, Helen Humes or Rosemary Clooney. They are all dead. I’m speaking of Gail Wynters, who is very much alive, though sometimes terribly ignored in Derby City.
But last night she got a chance to prove her mettle. Backed by pianist Chuck Marohnic’s superb trio consisting of bassist Chris Fitzgerald and drummer Jason Tienamen, Wynters tore through two sets of hand picked standards plus a tribute to Billie Holiday, one of her mentors, in a stellar performance at Louisville’s Jazz Factory.
Starting off with “My Secret Love,” a song she claimed she had never sung before, and wearing an ersatz gardenia in Lady Day’s honor, Wynter’s turned the Jazz Factory into a first rate New York City cabaret.
When she sang Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here With You,” you could tell it was no lie. Gail Wynters lives and loves to sing.
During the show she prefaced each song with witty stories about her life and philosophy. The daughter of an Ashland, Kentucky minister, Wynters hasn’t forgotten how to preach to the congregation, which last night consisted of music lovers.
And everyone present got their money’s worth. As the great jazz bassist Lynn Seaton once told me, “There are singers and there are “singers,” Gail Wynter’s is a Singer!
The control and rapport Wynters has with other musicians, and she is definitely a musician, is marvelous to watch. As one local drummer recently said, “You can’t lose this woman!”
It is hard to believe that an artist of this caliber has lived in Louisville for over six years with so little recognition. The late saxophonist Gordon Brisker, who worked for a time as jazz legend Anita O’Day’s musical director, once told me he preferred Wynter’s singing to O’Day’s.
Maybe last night’s feature gig at the Jazz Factory will be the beginning of a new kind of local recognition for one of the world’s greatest jazz singers, one who is still alive and just happens to be from Kentucky.
By Danny O’Bryan
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
at 7:52 AM