My good friend, Chicago singer-pianist Audrey Morris, is one of this year's recipients of the Chicago Federation of Musicians' prestigious Dal Segno honors for her many years of contributions to that city's music scene. Here's what the organization's monthly publication, Intermezzo, had to say about Audrey in its February issue, upon the occasion of the award announcement.
"Born and Raised in Chicago, IL, Morris studied piano as a child and would listen to the radio when she was supposed to be sleeping, hearing artists such as Fats Waller when he broadcast from the city’s Sherman House Hotel. Her studies were at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and she also studied with Mildred Davis. Although her piano playing was of a very high standard, she was sometimes cajoled into singing. Her initial reluctance to sing was eventually overcome and a significant part in this was played by Gene Gifford, who was writing arrangements for a band with which she was working. He insisted that she should sing and wrote an arrangement especially for her of a song made popular by Peggy Lee, “What More Can A Woman Do?”. After her marriage to reed player Stu Genovese she abandoned band work and thereafter appeared on her own, singing and playing the piano. In the late 50s, Morris appeared on Bobby Troup’s television show, “Stars Of Jazz”, but was mainly active and very much in demand in Chicago’s upper echelon supper clubs, including the London House.
Her skills were also admired by musicians and she became friendly with Billy Strayhorn when the Duke Ellington band played the Cloister Inn in Chicago. In the mid-80s she sang on George Shearing’s New York radio show. A 1996 engagement at Eighty-Eights in Greenwich Village, where she initiated a series of evening performances paying homage to singer-pianist composers, led to her recording Look At Me Now. An outstanding interpreter of the great American Song Book, Morris sings with seemingly effortless command of music and lyric, her voice ageing with grace. Her self-accompaniment, a difficult art in itself, is highly accomplished. Although Morris is reluctant to place too much emphasis on influences, when pressed she has cited Lee in particular, but also Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae and Lee Wiley. As is apparent from her repertoire, which is replete with the great standards, Morris believes that lyrics are the most important thing in a song. However, she does not ignore latter-day songs, declaring, 'I don’t agree that good songs are not being written nowadays, it’s just that there aren’t too many of them.'"
The award will be presented in Chicago at noon tomorrow at The Lido, 5504 N. Milwaukee Ave. This year's other honorees are: Michael Delaney, Nick Schneider, and Barry Winograd.
The award comes just a handful of months before the June 20, 2010 Japanese reissue of Audrey's Afterthoughts on SSJ Records.
Now available on CD Baby