Playback Records’ second recent jazz-oriented release comes from Melbourne’s Judy Jacques. Whereas Sue Barker’s brand of jazz was a soulful one with strains of pop and rock, Jacques’ style was firmly in the “trad jazz” camp derived from New Orleans and Dixieland. The Sixties Sessions collects 24 tracks recorded between 1962 and 1966 from the solo artist (including some atypical pop sides) as well as The Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band, and Judy Jacques and Her Gospel Four.
When she was joined the Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band in 1959, teenaged Judy Jacques made quite a stir in Melbourne with her mature-beyond-its-years voice. She had been performing professionally since the age of eleven, and with her sister Yvonne had formed The Two Jays, singing rock-and-roll and country songs for appreciative audiences. But the 15-year old found herself thrust into the world of trad jazz when the venue she had been playing with a pop act booked the Jazz Band on the condition that the band kept the teenager employed in their own act. The chance pairing was felicitous, as can be heard on Jacques’ earthy, big-voiced, gospel recordings with the band like “This Train,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” and the blues “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” Jazz and gospel fit Jacques as comfortably as pop had; she sang Bessie Smith and gospel traditionals with the same fire and conviction that earned her the moniker “the teenage Mahalia Jackson.” The earliest tracks on this collection come from two EPs recorded by Jacques and the Yarra Yarras in 1962 for the Crest label.
Late that year, Jacques formed her own Gospel Four with Doug Surman on piano, Bob Brown on string bass, Tom Arrowsmith on organ, and Graeme Morris on drums. The group emphasized the African-American gospel sound over trad jazz, and Jacques drew inspiration from the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, on such tracks as “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” “All Over God’s Heaven,” and “Didn’t It Rain, Children,” culled from a pair of EPs released in 1963 and 1964.
Jacques took a detour from the blues-gospel classics and embraced her youth on Australia’s popular teenage music shows. Four single sides from 1965-1966 here showcase Jacques as a swinging-sixties pop vocalist. The breakneck “You’re Messin’ Up My Mind,” penned by Van McCoy and introduced by Herb Fame, became a northern soul favorite for its nonstop rhythm and vocal that Judy, in the liner notes, recalls as having been described as “too black” by radio programmers at the time. She was equally persuasive on the country-rock twang of Lee Hazlewood’s “A Real Live Fool” and Bobby Darin’s “Since You’re Gone.” (Like “A Real Live Fool,” Darin’s song had been cut by Hazlewood on his Friday’s Child LP for Reprise.) Future Olivia Newton-John songwriter-producer John Farrar co-arranged and played on these tracks. Most appealing is Jacques’ rendition of Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent’s “Somewhere in the World.” The gutsy vocals of her gospel recordings have been replaced with a sweet soulful coo, perfect for Hatch’s mature, Bacharach-esque melody. Jacques navigates its contours with elegance and command.
On an altogether different note, The Sixties Sessions is rounded out by six live performances with the Yarra Yarras from 1963’s Jazz as You Like It at City Hall, including a rollicking Dixieland take on “I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me,” as well as “Kumbayah” and “Children Go Where I Send You.” In the period following the years represented on this CD, Jacques went on to form her own groups The Wild Dog Ensemble, The Judy Jacques Ensemble, and Lighthouse, and has continued to perform into the 21st century.
Playback’s stellar 32-page booklet offers Andra Jackson’s comprehensive chronicle of Jacques’ life and career, as well as illuminating track-by-track notes from the artist herself. Gil Matthews has remastered all tracks for optimum sound; three tracks (“Morning Train,” “Be My Friend,” “That’s God”) have been sourced from vinyl due to lack of master tapes, and four more tracks from the Gospel Four period have been happily presented in newly-discovered stereo rather than their original mono. The Sixties Sessions opens a window on a precocious, powerhouse talent.
- My Journey to the Sky
- Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen
- This Train
- Walk Thru the Valley
- He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
- Didn’t It Rain Children
- You Don’t Have to Ride This Train
- Sweet Little Jesus
- His Eye is On the Sparrow
- Morning Train
- Be My Friend
- That’s God
- All Over God’s Heaven
- What Can I Do Lord
- You’re Messin’ Up My Mind
- A Real Live Fool
- Since You’re Gone
- Somewhere in the World
- I’m So Glad Jesus Has Lifted Me (Live)
- Precious Lord, Take My Hand (Live)
- Children Go Where I Send You (Live)
- Old Man Mose (Live)
- Kumbayah (Live)
- Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho (Live)
Tracks 1-5 and 19-24 performed by the Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band
Tracks 6-14 performed by Judy Jacques and Her Gospel Four
All other tracks performed by Judy Jacques
Tracks 1-2 from The Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band with Judy Jacques, Crest EP CRT-7-EP 006, 1962
Tracks 3-5 from The Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band with Judy Jacques Volume 2, Crest EP CRT-7-EP 008, 1962
Tracks 6-9 from Introducing Judy Jacques and Her Gospel Four, Crest EP CRT-7-EP 023, 1963
Tracks 10-13 from Be My Friend, Segue EP SEP 702, 1964
Track 14 from Lombard custom single CWG 6730, 1965
Tracks 15 & 17 from Astor single A-7065, 1966
Tracks 16 & 18 from Astor single A-7068, 1965
Tracks 19-24 from Introducing “Jazz As You Like It at City Hall,” Crest LP CRT-12-LP-005, 1963