Leading singer Tina May releases 52nd Street (and other tales) on 33 Records on Friday, December 4th.
Featuring a collection of songs written by Scottish musician and composer Duncan Lamont, the album is full of the character and wit that Lamont, who died in July 2019, brought to his work as an astute observer of places and people.
Originally a trumpet player, Lamont left his hometown, Greenock for London in the 1950s, and like many other musicians of the time, he worked his passage on transatlantic liners, by now playing saxophone in the ships’ orchestras so that he could experience the jazz scene in New York while on shore leave.
He not only learned from the musicians he heard on these trips, going on to play with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby, Count Basie and Sir Paul McCartney among other top line stars, he also got ideas for songs.
Natalie Cole recorded A Great Day in Harlem on her Ask A Woman Who Knows album. Dame Cleo Laine sang Not You Again at Carnegie Hall and recorded many other Lamont compositions. And the legendary Hollywood dancer-actor-singer Fred Astaire personally endorsed the song Duncan wrote for and about him. Duncan wrote a song every day and left a huge portfolio of material from which Tina May has chosen fourteen for the album, which she produced with Duncan’s sons, Ross and Duncan Jnr.
“Every time I sing a jazz standard like Midnight Sun or More Than You Know, I think of Duncan because these songs were of the quality that he aimed for in his own writing,” says Tina May. “And he very often succeeded because he was such a perfectionist. There’s a least one song on the album that had two different sets of lyrics because Duncan kept tinkering and improving on what he’d written.”
The album features May with the house trio from Ronnie Scott’s – pianist James Pearson, bassist Sam Burgess and drummer Chris Higginbottom – with valuable contributions from trombonist Mark Nightingale, percussionist Phil Hopkins and accordionist Karen Street.
The songs include Lamont’s wry look at the march of big-time developers on 52nd Street itself, a tribute to the great Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim and English Folk Song, whose lyrics were written by Spike Milligan.