Sathima Bea Benjamin is a 76 year-old South African vocalist and composer that was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1936. A simple Google search on this woman would reveal to you that she recorded the first jazz LP in South Africa’s history during the year 1959. Sathima was influenced by many jazz musicians of her day, but no other artist was as influential or important to her career than Duke Ellington.
Sathima met Ellington while he was in Zurich in 1963. She watched from the wings during his band’s performance, and waited until the concert ended to approach him. The idea behind her advancement was to pitch her husband’s band to Ellington as they were playing a show at the famous Club Africana that same night, but what happened instead became history.
Duke agreed to hear her husband’s band under one condition, that she would sing for him first. After she met the conditions of the agreement, Duke liked what he heard so much that he had Sathima flown out to Paris to record an album with him. What came of this recording session was never released, presumed to be lost, and was maintained largely to be a mystery until 1996, when the recording session was released by the engineer behind it, Gerhard Lerner. The session titled, A Morning in Paris, can be found on iTunes now, and features Benjamin performing with a wide variety of influential jazz musicians of her time.
One of the highlights of the album is the heart-melting track, “Solitude,” which perfectly depicts the mental state of someone who has lost a lover, and takes you on a sorrowful journey that you’re glad only lasts three and a half minutes. Sathima delivers a stunning performance, using great passion and intensity that is only made more heartbreakingly sad when placed over the despondent atmosphere created by the faint drums and piano. All of our youth should take note; this is how you do sorrow.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raZdmhld-JM]