From the Roadhouse: Mara Kaye sings the great American (blues) songbook

It’s always great musical fun to hear an artist for the first time, and then not be able to get enough.

That’s what happened a while back when I got an email from Bigtone Records, promoting a single from an upcoming album by singer Mara Kaye and pianist Carl Sonny Leyland.

The song, the classic “It Had To Be You,” is the title track from the as-yet-unreleased album. Kaye and Leyland do a superb job of offering a bright new version of this old standard, first published in 1924, written by Isham Jones, with lyrics by Gus Kahn.

I’m familiar with Leyland’s stellar keyboard work, but Mara Kaye’s name was new to me. Fortunately, Bigtone was kind enough to release an audio version of this splendid track (listen below), and that sent me hustling to find more of Ms. Kaye.

I haven’t found a lot of biographical information, except that she was born in Brooklyn (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). There are, however, a number of clips on YouTube that focus on her interpretation of old blues and jazz songs. Which, after all, is the most important.

Ms. Kaye is, in a word, terrific.

She breathes new life into old music, and does it with tremendous talent and obviously, a lot of respect for the genre. By dipping in to this somewhat esoteric old songbook, she’s giving us another look at some great music.

I’m hoping the new album isn’t too far behind.

Here’s a great article about Mara Kaye from the San Diego Troubadour.

Here’s Ms. Kaye with pianist Clinton Davis in an extended set of great blues: “Going Crazy with the Blues” (J.C. Johnson & Andy Razaf) “New York Blues” (Victoria Spivey) “Dystopian Blues” (Alfred Howard) “Stop Lyin’ on Me” (Memphis Minnie) and “Ain’t No Tellin'” (Mississippi John Hurt)

Here’s “It Had To Be You”:

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