“Have You Met Miss Jones” Salena Jones My life and music(Vine Gate, 2011. Book Review by Frank Griffith)
Vine Gate Music has just released a tasty collection of a dvd, cds and mini-autobiogrphy of expatriate American singer, Salena Jones, the former Joan Shaw. Two fine CDs featuring tracks from her forty-one albums, as music from as far as back as 1949, are the highlight. CD 1 includes classics like Mississipi Mud, I Hadn’t Anyone Till You, Have You Met Miss Jones and Nature Boy, together with lesser R n B hits of the day (does anyone remember He Knows How To Hucklebuck?). CD2 has a wide variety of styles and idioms, and includes Classic Popular Songs from writers of the Noble, Loesser, Rodgers, Lennon/ Mccartney, Jobim and Bergman/Legrand quality, with standouts such as Dindi, Alone Together and Harry Nemo’s Don’t Take Your love From Me. It also has a handful of 70s and 80s hits that have stood the test of time less well. The DVD has interesting live video footage.
In my October 2009 LondonJazz review of Miss Jones’s return engagement at Ronnie Scotts, I wanted to draw attention to her understated clarity of vocal quality and histrionic-free delivery of the lyric, which makes a nice contrast to so many of todays’ melisma-laden singers’ interpretations of similar material. Especially those that are overly influenced by what a “soul” or “jazz” singer is supposed to bring to the stage. Salena has a truly distinctive voice not only for today’s market but she has made an important historical contribution as well. She has had such a fine team of arrangers that includes her husband, Keith Mansfield, as well as Eddie Harvey who contributed an album of of trombone choir backings in the 1970s.
The book has 114 pages of prose and pictures, so to describe it as an autobiography might be stretching definitions a bit. The writing style and structure favour short paragraphs which sum up one thought, or an episode of her life, only to skip jauntily off to the next. The effect is one of a life story told impressionistically in the stanzas of a lyric, or short poems, almost like tweets waiting be ordered chronologically at a later date. Having said this, it makes for economical reading and does effectively manage to sum up her long, varied and interesting life in a relatively short time. The reader does manage to get a complete arc-like sense of a full life.
At £25 (including free p & p to the UK), this fine package is good value, its main merit being the more than worthwhile – and personal – selection of the work of a fine and important singer who is still on top form today.
Available from salenajones.com