Patty Waters

Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe -- Live in San Francisco 2002

She released but two albums in the mid-1960s on the iconoclastic ESP label, but avant-garde vocalist Patty Waters had considerable impact, influencing no less a singer than Diamanda Galas. Then she "disappeared" (to be a mom), re-emerging in the mid-'90s for sporadic performances. In May '02, S.F.'s Noe Valley Ministry was the setting, with Waters accompanied only by a pianist and bassist. Anyone expecting the cathartic, mind-shredding outré technique of her classic "Black Is the Color" could be disappointed -- here she revisits her traditional jazz roots, exemplified by Anita O'Day and especially Billie Holiday, to whom this set is a tribute. Without mimicking Holiday, Waters presents a similarly smoky, sultry, measured quality, capturing the harrowing essence of the jazz singer near the end of her life, after hard living had eroded her voice, leaving only her spirit. The program consists of overly familiar standards like "Old Devil Moon" and "Lover Man," but Waters' trio conveys them with such stark, unadorned devotion that one might think this was the very last time they were going to be played or heard.

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