Patty Waters Sings


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Patty Water’s fIrst album opens with a dull thud of a piano chord and it is the saddest thing you will ever hear. That is, until her voice comes in over a few shattered notes. For six more songs, Waters puts .... fuck it, this is probably the most difficult record I could think of reviewing. How do you review pure emotion? How can you put into words the sound of desperation and defeat? There are no words raw enough to reflect what Patty Waters did in this record.

I picked up this record as a reissue a couple years ago on a whim. I didn’t know of its legendary status among record geeks and jazzheads. I liked the cover: A fuzzy black and white photo of a sad-eyed, gapped-tooth woman.

I read the liner notes: Patty Waters was born in the 1940s. She sang for the Jerry Grey Hotel Jazz Band. She moved to Denver and got into Billie Holiday. She got voice training in LA. In the early 60s, she was in New York, where Albert Ayler heard her sing and dragged her to ESP. She recorded this album in 1965. She did one other album with Burton Greene, Dave Burrell and a bunch of other underground jazz legends. She had a kid with Clifford Jarvis, drurrimer for Sun Ra, Archie Shepp and others. She recorded again in 1968 with the M. Watts Ensemble. Then she disappeared.

In 1996, she reappeared and made an album with Sacramento jazz pianist, Jessica Williams. In 1999, she performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival to much enthusiasm.

Patty Waters Sings has 7 songs on side one, written for piano and voice. Ms Waters commands both. Side two is her backed by the Burton Greene Trio on the song Black Is The Color Of My True Loves Hair, a 15 minute dive into pain, confusion, fear, and violence. Nina Simone later covered the song and did a good job, but nothing can match the depth Waters brings to her composition.

The fIrst time I listened to this, I had to go out for a walk after hearing side one.

A half hour later I was “ready” for side two. I didn't listen to one piece of music for the next three days. Patty Waters debut album is one of the top 100 records ever released. I know of no other record that houses as much raw emotion.