One of the great things about music is that every now and then some obscure act puts out an album and shows they are just as good as the superstar, well-known artists. For fans and listeners, it is a bit like being a detective, always searching, looking for clues, trying this and that.
A few years ago I was given a live double-album by jazz singer Margie Baker. It was great stuff, but I was amazed when I was told two things -- she was over 70 years old and it was her FIRST recording to be released. Where the heck had she been all those years? I discovered she had been singing for nearly four decades, mostly in the San Francisco area, but occasionally in New York, and once on a world tour. Although she has performed almost every weekend of her life, she also was a full-time professional school administrator until she retired, plus she raised a family. I guess she just never got around to recording until after the family was grown and she retired. But she was not a nobody! She was friends with Dizzy Gillespie and whenever she was around for one of his shows, he would invite her on-stage to sing, whether it was in San Francisco, New York City or even Tokyo.
Anyway, during the past 40 years, she has often performed with a pianist (originally from Japan) named Shota Osabe. So for Margie's second album, called A BIT OF JAZZ AND MORE, she teamed up with Shota, who handles the music and in fact does several instrumentals on the record. So now Margie is in her late-seventies (I think) and she is just now putting out her second album, this one a duo project. All I can say is I wish I could have heard her in her prime. She probably held her own back then with Ella Fitzgerald and the other early ladies of jazz. So Margie's voice is a little worn and weakened, but even so, she has more power, poise and passion than most of the young fillies I hear coming up the ladder these days.
The album is mostly classic jazz and Broadway standards (with a few pop tunes and Brazilian numbers thrown in). There is one original written by Baker called "Dizstory" about Gillespie's life. It is an interesting mix of tunes and styles. Osabe creates everything on piano, synth and pedal steel guitar with a couple of real horn players brought in. I might have preferred hearing a full real band, but that is nit-picking. The main thing here is the voice of Margie Baker...a real find.
So for Music Banter readers out there, anyone else have a story of a great jazz singer or musician who languished and then was finally discovered, or is the classic example of someone who never-got-discovered-by-the-public.