I'm convinced you can spend a lifetime listening to captivating albums by female jazz singers of the 1950s. There seems to be an endless supply. Today, the names of these vocalists are completely unknown or forgotten by most fans of the music. In many cases these women recorded one or two albums in New York or Los Angeles and then disappeared—either because they found the hard hours and low pay unbearable or because they married and found other ways to lead a rewarding life. Or they grew tired of the groping and cracks made by guys with unlit cigars and bad complexions.
One of these shadow singers was Jane Fielding, who recorded just two known studio albums and two tracks with Oscar Peterson on the L.A. Stars of Jazz TV show. I have no idea who she is, what became of her or if she's still around. The notes on one album say she was an ice skater who suffered an injury and turned to singing. Notes on another say she worked with Joe Theimer, drummer and leader of The Orchestra. A site points out she recorded a series of albums but few were released. Who knows? I can only tell you that Embers Glow is one of the finest of its genre.
Recorded in February 1956 for Jazz West, Embers Glow features Fielding backed by a superb group: Kenny Drew (piano), Joe Maini (alto sax), Ted Efantis (aka Teddy Edwards, tenor sax), Leroy Vinnegar (bass) and Larance Marable (drums). Paul Chambers replaced Vinnegar on half the tracks.
What's notable about this album is the incredible taste in song choices as well as Fielding's breathy, Chris Connor-like intonation and how she drifts deftly behind the beat. Every single song on the LP is special and perfectly suited to Fielding's voice, which according to the album's notes, was influenced by Sonny Rollins. The notes also say the songs were chosen for her and arranged by Drew [pictured below].
The tracks are Embers Glow, Our Waltz, Key Largo, Along With Me, In Love in Vain, 'Round Midnight, Too Marvelous for Words, Make the Man Love Me, Right Boy for Me and All Dressed Up Tonight and No Place to Go.
Standout artists on this album are Maini [pictured above] and Drew. Maini adds a hip, sophisticated edginess that complements Fielding's Hollywood breathiness perfectly. Drew's voicings provide Fielding with a delicate, swinging frame.
Fielding's retirement may have come after she read the Embers Glow liner notes:
"Jane Fielding is 21 and, quite naturally, she loves life and all the excitement it holds for a pretty blue-eyed redhead of her age. In this, her second long-playing album for Jazz West, she shows that the success of her Jazz Trio album with Lou Levy and Red Mitchell was only the beginning of a bright career. The experimentation of the first album matures into focus against the background of Kenny Drew's marvelously simple arrangements, showing off the steadiness of a tried professional."
Note to vocalists who can't seem to find new material other than Songbook fare: Try Embers Glow, Along with Me, In Love in Vain or Right Boy for Me. All are little-known and all are gorgeous works.
As for Jane Fielding, you'll find an update here.
JazzWax tracks: Jane Fielding's Embers Glow on CD is going for $80 here. Or you may find it on download sites. Another way into this material is by buying Joe Maini: The Small Group Recordings here. Her first album, Introducing Jane Fielding here, is equally tasteful and jazz-centric. Those two 1957 live tracks with Oscar Peterson or Gerald Wiggins are on the rare Sessions, Live album here.
JazzWax clip: I wish you could hear the title track or Along With Me, which Mel Torme recorded in 1946 with Artie Shaw. But Right Boy for Me will give you a fine sense of how good an album this is: