Right at the peak of his recording career, when The Song Is Paris (Impulse) was released in 1962, Jackie Paris felt the jazz earth crumble beneath his feet. In the late 1940s and ’50s, he had been among New York’s hippest club singers, a jazz musician’s singer. But in the early ’60s, Paris was never able to leverage his approach beyond jazz as the vocal market shifted to pop. As a result, Paris spent the ’60s scuffling as big-label recording shots for most hip singers dried up. Unlike vocalese singer Mark Murphy, who was on his ascent, Paris either ticked off the wrong people or his with-it optimistic approach and choice of off-beat songs didn’t quite resonate with the mass market. Or both.
When Anne Marie Moss came to New York in the late 1950s, Paris was her favorite singer. Unable to find a record deal in the late 1960s, Moss was singing in the city when Paris went to hear her. They met after her gig, dated and in 1969 they married. It’s hard to know whether the attraction was two-way. For Moss, she had a powerful crush on Paris. His voice touched something in her. For Paris, though, he may have viewed Moss as someone to be at his beck and call, and a singer with whom he could team up for another crack at fame. For the next few years, Paris and Moss worked on their husband-and-wife club act.
In 1974, at the peak of their club act, Paris and Moss convinced Jack Tafoya & Jazz Adventures Inc. to record them at the Maisonette, a popular club at New York’s St. Regis-Sheraton Hotel where they were performing. On Sept. 28, 1974, Paris and Moss, backed by Michael Abene on piano, Harvie Swartz on bass and Steve Gadd on drums—an astonishing trio—were taped. Tafoya produced the album for the Different Drummer label, but Jackie Paris & Anne Marie Moss Live at the Maisonette came and went, along with Paris and Moss’s last shot. In retrospect, the album probably needed a hit single for radio airplay, perhaps a cover of a contemporary pop hit. The idea is something that the hipper than hip Jackie probably waved off as being too square and a sell-out.
The rest of the Paris-Moss story is dramatic and can be found in Raymond De Felitta’s brilliant documentary, Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris. Paris died in 2004, and Moss passed in 2012.
For years, the rare Jackie Paris & Anne Marie Moss Live at the Maisonette has been difficult to find on LP, and it never made it to the digital format. Sadly, the album has been forgotten and still hasn’t been reissued. But fortunately, I noticed that someone has uploaded tracks to YouTube. As you’ll hear, the album is excellent and provides a glimpse at a duo in the early 1970s with something new and exciting to offer—a hip, go-getter’s approach to jazz singing. Unfortunately, it was recorded in the early 1970s, not the late 1950s.
Michael Abene’s arrangements and piano along with Swartz’s bass and Gadd’s drums are terrific. Gadd had just come to New York, and all three would go on to become monster artists. Michael already was considered one of the best arrangers and piano accompanists in the business, having written a significant number of Maynard Ferguson’s best charts of the early 1960s while still in his late teens.
Interestingly, Moss is the one who stands out on this live album. She’s heartfelt, vulnerable, hip and sassy and in step with Paris’s difficult vocal arrangements. Both Paris and Moss should have been more than they were. Why they weren’t remains a jazz mystery. The reasons may range from bad decisions and poor song choices to bad timing and being difficult to deal with and not worth the trouble.
“Jackie and Anne Marie could be difficult, Jackie more so. As in many groups, there were times when things fell into place and it was lots of fun. At other times, not so much. Jackie was a man of extremes. Anne Marie had a great set of pipes and was a terrific ballad singer. Jackie didn’t have the pipes that Anne Marie had, but in his own way he could really make a song his own.
“For the Maisonette date, Jackie and Anne Marie chose the material, and we all worked on ideas. I translated everything we kicked around into arrangements on paper. I have no recollection of what the Maisonette looked like or if any celebrities came to see us. I remember we also performed a couple of instrumentals with Jackie playing guitar. I think most of the musicians on the date would agree that these weren’t our favorite moments.
“Jackie had a tendency to play for himself no matter what you played. But when he sang and played alone, he could create a wonderful mood. After their marriage broke up, Anne Marie went on to do many solo performances. More people should have known about her.”
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Jackie Paris & Anne Marie Moss Live at the Maisonette on vinyl at eBay for around $25.
JazzWax clips: Here’s Jackie Paris and Anne Marie Moss singing Thou Swell, with a swinging, hip, early-’70s jazz sound and brilliant arrangement by Michael Abene…
Here’s Moss on Sayde Shepard‘s Bright Lights and You Girl, with Michael Abene’s arrangement…
A special thanks to Doug Paterson and Bill Kirchner.