Pianist-vocalist Andy Bey is a bass-baritone who took Nat King Cole as his early model for singing, and who’s had a long but somewhat submerged career. He grew up in Newark, New Jersey in the 1940s and 50s, and was singing with jazz acts by the time he was 8. He recorded his first album, Mama’s Little Boy’s Got the Blues, when he was 13. At age 17 he formed an act with his sisters, Salome and Geraldine; they toured Europe together and recorded three albums in the 1960s, earning comparisons to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, but with more of a church-and-blues-influenced approach.
After the Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters group broke up, Bey went on to make a number of records with jazz performers such as Max Roach and Horace Silver, often singing songs with strong political and cultural messages, as well as some of the pieces that Silver called his “metaphysical self-help” songs. In recent years Bey’s released several CDs focusing on American popular song that have gotten him renewed attention.
Afterglow pays tribute to Bey in advance of his 70th birthday (coming up on October 28) with a musical overview of the pianist-singer’s life. The program also features music from Frank Sinatra, Chris Connor, George Benson, and Ivie Anderson with Duke Ellington.
Listen to an NPR profile of Andy Bey.
Watch Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters live in 1965: