Solitaire Miles – Jazztets with Willie Pickens (2018)

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Solitaire Miles is taking a quick break from her Susie Blue persona to dig back into her jazz roots. The Chicago-based singer is working with her Lonesome Fellas band on another dose of Western swing, which should appear later this year.

In the meantime, she is releasing a collaboration with pianist Willie Pickens. The digital-only EP, entitled Jazztets with Willie Pickens was pulled from recording session in Chicago from 2008-10. Here, Solitaire Miles shows off her arranging chops and incredible feel, in addition to her multifaceted vocal talent. The EP also serves as a salute to a dear friend.

Pickens, who died last winter, was a long-time mentor and collaborator of Miles; the two have recorded three albums together. This EP’s four songs were recently discovered, and are a worthy tribute to pianist.

“Take Love Easy” kicks things off with a delicate piano passage by Pickens. Solitaire Miles’ voice then enters, floating just above the delicate and delightful brush work of the drummer. Trumpeter Art Davis closes the solo section out, after saxophonist Jim Gailloteto and Jim Massoth engage in a tight dance around the melody. It is straight-ahead jazz and Miles’ voice, in tandem with Willie Pickens’ piano, could not be more engaging.

“Say It With a Kiss” swings along with reckless abandon, propelled by Willie Pickens elegant piano and saxophone interplay. “You Let Me Down,” a Billie Holiday favorite, dials back the tempo but not the intensity. Mentor and protégée set a mood full of yearning, passion and loss. Solitaire Miles, a master of disguises, teleports the listener to a steamy club which is dark, sexy, and inviting. Her talented collaborators never disappoint either, as muted trumpet, tenor sax and Willie Pickens’ piano tighten the spell that Miles’ voice casts.

“The House of Blue Lights,” the final track, was written by Freddie Slack and kicks up the tempo and intensity. Also made popular by Billie Holiday, the song jumps out of the speakers with the blues-infused honky tonk piano by Willie Pickens which frames Solitaire Mile’s straight forward and powerful delivery. The song evokes Harlem and Chicago, all at the same time. Pickens’ solo more than matches the intensity and enthusiasm of the band. This will make you want to get up and shake a little.

Unfortunately, these may be the last recordings featuring Miles and Willie Pickens. Luckily, Miles unearthed these gems. Hopefully, these songs will recruit new fans for Willie Pickens catalog, as well as for Solitaire Miles and her Susie Blue and the Lonesome Fellas projects.


Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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