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Album Review: Lacey Mae
Beverly Ritz
Cover image of the album Lacey Mae by Beverly Ritz
Lacey Mae
Beverly Ritz
2008 / Goldie Mae Records
38 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Lacey Mae is the latest recording by Northern California’s Beverly Ritz. A blending of “west coast cool” and “modern impressionism,” Ritz’s nine solo piano tracks are made up of six jazz standards and three original pieces. The pieces are very different from each other, but Ritz gives them all a “cool” and relaxing treatment that creates a consistently pleasant mood from start to finish. Some of her unusual chord voicings add spice to her arrangements, but there are no jarring discordances or “acid” moments.

Ritz begins with Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower.” Its gentle rhythm and languid pace set the tone of the album. The left hand creates the feeling of a lazy breeze that causes the “head” of the sunflower to dance along in an unhurried and carefree way. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” has been turning up more frequently as a jazz piece, and its simple melody lends itself to a variety of treatments. Wistful and dreamy with a touch of bittersweet, this is one of my favorite arrangements of this classic. “Lacey Mae” is the name of one of Ritz’s Golden Retrievers, and her song is full of tender love and affection. Miles Davis’ “All Blues” has an intoxicating rolling rhythm that accompanies the complex harmonies of the right hand. “I Love You, Phil” is another original and is a heartfelt tribute to Phil Mack, Ritz’s musical partner for many years. “Summertime” is perhaps my favorite jazz standard, and Ritz’s arrangement is dark, on the slinky side, and wonderful. You can almost feel the humidity coming through the notes! John Coltrane’s “Naima” is graceful, reflective, and very beautiful. My favorite track is Ritz’s own “Blues For Phil,” a piece that has lyrics about how she loves playing with the guitarist. This solo piano version is slow and moody with an infectious rhythm that slips a beat here and there just to keep you on your musical toes! Marian McPartland’s “Willow Creek” is a tranquil, flowing close to this very enjoyable CD.

Lacey Mae is a great addition to your collection if you like jazz piano with more substance than traditional “smooth jazz” but that isn’t overly challenging to the listener. It is available from ritzymusic.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!
October 19, 2009
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