Saturday, February 7, 2009

Marlena Shaw - Just A Matter Of Time

Born Marlina Burgess in 1942, Valhalla, New York. Marlena Shaw began her singing career in the 1960s and is still singing today. Her music crossed genre boundaries and was enjoyed by people of all races. Her strongest fan base was in the African American community. Her music has reached out and touched all forms of music, and is still seen today as samples in hip hop songs, and in commercials on TV. Her uncle, Jimmy Burgess a jazz trumpet player, first introduced her to music. In an interview with the New York Times, she told the reporter "He introduced me to good music through records---Dizzy [Gillespie], Miles [Davis], a lot of gospel things, and Al Hibbler, who really knows how to phrase a song."

In 1952, her uncle Jimmy brought her on stage at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to sing with him and his band. This was her first performance, and the audience loved her. Shaw’s mother did not want her daughter to go on tour with her uncle at such a young age and refused to let her go. Instead, she enrolled Shaw into the New York State Teachers College in Potsdam (now known as the State University of New York at Potsdam) to study music. She later dropped out of school, got married, and had five children. She did not give up on her singing career. She began to make singing appearances in jazz clubs whenever she could spare the time. This most notable of these appearances was in 1963 when she worked with jazz trumpeter Howard McGhee. She was supposed to play at the famous Newport Jazz Festival with McGhee and his band, but left the group after getting into an argument with one of the band members. Later that year, she got an audition with legendary Columbia label talent scout John Hammond. John Hammond had discovered talents including Billie Holiday, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Dylan. Shaw did not perform well during the audition because she was too nervous. Undiscouraged, she continued to play at small clubs in 1964 until 1966. Her career took off in 1966 when she landed a gig with the Playboy Club chain in Chicago. It was through this gig that she met with representatives the music label Chess Records, and soon signed with them.

Shaw was discovered by Chess Records in 1966. Her first two albums, 1967's Out of Different Bags and 1969's Spice of Life were released on their Cadet subsidiary.

She moved to Blue Note Records in 1972, and became their first female artist. That year, she returned with Marlena, the first of five albums Shaw would record for the label.

In 1977 Shaw, left Blue Note and inked a deal with Columbia records. She churned out a total of 3 albums during her stint with the label leading off with Sweet Beginnings, followed by Acting Up in 1978 & Take A Bite in 1980. Beginnings featured of her most successful singles to date, her unique rendition of "Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy."

Over the next two decades Marlena recorded albums for a variety of labels including South Bay, Verve and Concord Jazz.

In 2000, her tremendous overseas popularity led to Anthology, a splendid collection from London’s Soul Brother Records. Two years later, Marlena released her Live In Tokyo set.

The following year she recorded Lookin' For Love. Like her previous to albums, Lookin'... was issued in the United States by 441 Records.

Shaw still performs and records today, you can keep abreast of her tour dates and other info via her MySpace page here.

Just A Matter Of Time is, of course, out of print and has yet to be reissued but an original vinyl copy of your own should be easy to track down for a good price here.

Featured cut: "Think About Me"

Listen to the full album here


soulbrotha said...

Can never go wrong with Marlena. Thanks!

Slay'd said...

A pleasure, as always SB!

Anonymous said...

An old bf introduced me to Marlena, great voice, I bought the single 2nd hand years ago, Thanks

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