Three full albums from this tremendous singer – all in a single set! Morning In Paris is very early work from South African singer Sathima Bea Benjamin – recorded in Paris in 1963, with backing by longtime partner Abdullah Ibrahim, plus additional piano and production by Duke Ellington! The album was cut around the same time as Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) did his famous Reprise album in Paris with Ellington – and it's got a similar mix of modern and moody styles – with Sathima singing in a mellower tone than we're used to from her later records, over extremely spare backing that often has the piano barely stepping in, and which also features some nice plucked violin work from Svend Asmussen – acting almost as the bass on a few tracks! Billy Strayhorn also sits in on this extremely unusual session – and titles include "The Man I Love", "Soon", "Lover Man", "I Should Care", "I Could Write A Book", and "Darn That Dream". Lovelight is always-great work from Sathima Bea Benjamin – one of the hippest jazz vocalists of the 80s, working here in a highly spiritual mode that sounds a lot more like records from many years past! There's a warmly gentle glow to the whole set – thanks to instrumentation from Larry Willis
on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Billy Higgins on percussion, and Ricky Ford on tenor sax – all coming together in ways that are filled with unusual rhythms, odd turns of phrases, and just the right sort of unconventional accompaniment to fit the Africanist themes of Sathima's music at its best. A few numbers are more traditional, but even these have a nicely sensitive feel – and offer plenty of room for Willis
to solo. Titles include "Winne Mandela Beloved Heroine", "African Songbird", "Gift Of Love – For Duke", "Music", and "You Are My Heart's Delight". Southern Touch is a set that's maybe a bit more of a straight jazz vocal record than some of Sathima Bea Benjamin's earlier material – but that might also be because the great Kenny Barron is part of the group on piano – supporting Sathima's great voice with the help of Buster Williams on bass and Billy Higgins on drums! Tunes are mostly standards, but it's great to hear them opened up with Benjamin's unique phrasing – that voice that was raised up on more righteous material in earlier years, and which still seems to bring some of that power to tunes that include "Street Of Dreams", "Lush Life", "One Alone", "I'm Glad There Is You", and "I've Heard That Song Before".