February 2004

Barbara Levy Daniels
Back Again

by John BINDER

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We presented Barbara Levy Daniels to our readers in our June, 2002 issue, when we told you about her return to jazz vocal performance following a 40+ year hiatus.

Barbara was a mere 13 years old, her hair in a pony tail and braces on her teeth, when she was signed with ABC Paramount Records in New York in 1959. Barbara Lyons, as she was named by the record company executives, bellowed out tunes that wowed the likes of Ray Charles, who strongly recommended that Paramount sign her immediately. Recording under the Paramount label included a tune written by the then unknown Carole King, arranged by Sid Feller (known for his work with jazz great Dakota Staton) and Dick Wess, Bobby Darin’s arranger of “Mack the Knife” as well as a children’s album written and directed by Woody Herman’s bassist, the late Chubby Jackson.

Barbara’s friends at P.S. #56 were quite excited about her recording contract as were her high school friends at Riverside High School. In those days, singers promoted their 45rpm records by lip-syncing at various events. As she lip-synced her first record, “Leo, My Love”, a young teenaged boy was awestruck by her talent and managed to have a friend arrange a meeting. The rest is history. The love that seemed like typical teenage puppy love became the real thing.

Barbara was torn between the world of performing and the world of being a teenager in love. Being a teenager in love won out! (Barbara has been married to that teenager for 38 years). Although it might have appeared that Barbara stopped singing completely, she really continued to sing at home for friends and family members. She spent hours upon hours and years upon years in self-study by listening and singing along with jazz greats such as Ella, Carmen, Mel and Joe.

In 1998, following an evening when Barbara saw Alberta Hunter perform at the Village Gate in New York City, she declared it was time to jump back into performing. For the next couple of years, Barbara worked diligently producing her CD, “They’re Writing Songs of Love…”. “Recording this CD was very different from the time I recorded singles for Paramount. This time, I was choosing the tunes, deciding on the mood, locating an arranger etc. There was a great deal to learn”. With assistance from Ken Kaufman, Barbara was able to produce a CD of standards that announced “I am back” loudly and clearly. Ken Kaufman is a familiar talent to Western New Yorkers through his own performances and his remarkable jingle-writing talent.

Following the release of her first CD, “They’re Writing Songs of Love..” Barbara was accepted into the famed Jazz in July Program at the University of Massachusetts where she was able to explore and refine vocal techniques with such greats as Dr. Yusef Lateef, Dr. Billy Taylor and vocalist-extraordinaire Sheila Jordan. Acceptance into this program was no easy feat. As one of 14 vocalists accepted by audition, Barbara was among the country’s most promising jazz vocalists.

Barbara has graced stages from Danny’s Skylight Room in New York City to the Benzanson Recital Hall in Amherst, Massachusetts as well as venues around the Western New York/Niagara Region.

Barbara is definitely back to performing and, at the age of 57 has released her second CD, “Peel Me a Grape”…. a wonderful collection of standards including “Tea for Two”, “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me”, “Lullaby of Birdland,” and tunes with Brazilian rhythms such as “One Note Samba”and “Desafinado".

This CD is already receiving rave reviews and is considered to be Barbara’s best work yet. She is accompanied by Nick Mancini on vibraphone, Dave Wood on guitar, Chris Hertzberg on bass, Chris Michael on drums with special guest William Galison on harmonica. The project was recorded in New York City at Track 9 Studio.

“Peel Me a Grape” is available at Borders and Barnes & Noble (Niagara Falls Blvd.), through CDbaby.com, Amazon.com, or by going directly to Barbara’s website at www.barbaralevydaniels.com

John Binder is a freelance writer.


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