This Recording is a fabulous showcase of vocal artistry by Amber Weekes who is one those about whom neither enough nor too much can be said. She is bluesy, sensual, sassy, jazzy and spiritual. ‘Round Midnight – Re-Imagined is her celebration of a story as told to her by her father, Martin Edward Weekes, of her family’s history in New York during The Harlem Renaissance and it has become a fairytale in her heart and mind.
Amber proceeds to take us through a series of romantic vignettes that are set in a summer night in New York. She has arrayed the order of these tunes to tell the story that lives in her heart. From the Blues of “Hazel’s Hips” and “Don’t You Feel My Leg”, to the gentle flow of “Summer Samba” and the utter spirituality of “Cristo Redentor/I Want Jesus To Walk With Me”. Songs that are magnificently performed by Amber and she is aided and abetted by the never intrusive but always there, strings that are arranged and conducted by Mark Cargill, and he does some of the best arrangements of anyone on the scene.
She has a particular reverence for ballads and she is masterful in her renditions of “Sistermoon/Summertime”, “My Romance”, “Something Cool” and “The Man That Got Away”. Of particular note for me is the way she walks “One For My Baby” from a ballad into the Blues and back out again. You’ve got to love that kind of talent.
Amber is as Jazzy in “Lovers” as she is classic in her unique take on the Title track “’Round Midnight” (not the easiest song to sing). ”More Than You Know” is the epilogue to the story. She pulls it off in a way that made have to catch my breath at the end. This is what has always been, to me, what is so attractive about her vocal dexterity. No matter how familiar that you think you are with material, she comes at it in a way you least expect. Mr. Weekes is smiling down from heaven. Amber has done it again.
James Janisse – The Gentleman of Jazz
My father gave a speech for several different events that was entitled “There Really Was a Camelot.” In the speech, he talked about how the “Sugar Hill” section of Harlem was a magical place and how his parents, Wilfred and Nettie Weekes owners of “Weekes’ Luncheonette,” which was located at 155 th and St. Nicholas Avenue, were its king and queen. “’Round Midnight – Re-imagined” is my celebration of the fairytale that Daddy made New York become in my heart and mind, and, with vignettes set (primarily) on a Summer night in New York, the listener gets a peek into the mostly imaginary lives of a few in “the city that never sleeps.
My father attended The High School of Music and Art where he sang and played the trombone. After graduating from Manhattan College, he was drafted into the United States Army. While stationed in Germany as a draftsman, he also sang. He was offered a recording contract, which he declined. He went on to become an aerospace engineer, and became the first Black Deputy County Counsel and the first Assistant County Counsel in the County of Los Angeles.
My father passed in 2016 years ago. I miss him a lot! Framing the album in this way gave me another chance to celebrate him.