For fans of the American Songbook, Mickey Freeman’s “Livin’ the Dream,” is cause for extended celebration. Produced by Duke Robillard, and recorded at Lakewest Recording by John Paul Gauthier, Livin’ the Dream features Mickey Freeman backed by a swinging trio of Paul Nagel on piano, Marty Ballou on bass and Mark Teixeira on drums. Special guests include Duke Robillard on guitar and tenor sax legend Scott Hamilton. Mickey Freeman’s voice inhabits the even-dozen songs on ‘Livin’ the Dream” like a hand in a glove and her warm vocals, scat singing and way with phrasing make the new CD play like a living room concert experience.
Tunes come from the great American songbook of composers ranging from Rodgers and Hammerstein (“It Might As Well Be Spring,” “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”) and Cole Porter (“It’s All Right with Me”), to jazz greats Duke Ellington (“I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues”) and Lionel Hampton (“Red Top”).
“I chose this particular group of 12 songs because they also showed my range as a vocalist: ballads, swing, blues, scat and even harmony with myself on ‘Red Top,'” says Mickey Freeman. “They also were some of my late husband Bob’s favorites; and four of the songs initially appeared on the demo tape I sent to Duke.
“Most of the arrangements were done on the spot in the studio as they were recorded. ‘It’s All Right with Me’ was actually done in one take, which made us all very happy. The only song I performed for the first time while recording the album was ‘An Occasional Man,’ which I had heard on the radio being sung by Jeri Sothern. I loved the lyrics and the Caribbean feeling. While I was recording the track, it came to me that a flute would be perfect for it…so Duke hired a flutist named Wendy Klein, who did a wonderful job.
“My personal favorites are ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top,’ because the intro is so different that you don’t know what song is coming; and ‘A Time for Love,’ because I love ballads and think this one is beautiful and the arrangement is haunting.”
Producer Duke Robillard joins in the fun on the album by adding his wonderful guitar tones on two songs, including “Taking a Chance on Love.” Tenor sax great Scott Hamilton adds his beautifully-textured horn parts to three tracks, including “More Than You Know.”
Mickey Freeman is a self-taught vocalist who began her career in Boston in 1980 by answering an ad in a local newspaper from a band looking for a vocalist to complete a vocal quartet. Although the band was looking for someone who could scat and sing harmony (and Freeman had no experience with either), she was hired on the spot after an audition and became a member of the ’30s/’40s campy swing group, The Boo-Bettes, who toured throughout New England.
In 1982, she formed the vocal-based group, The Ritz, which was inspired by the likes of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and The Manhattan Transfer. The Ritz played jazz festivals around the world and toured with such artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Gerry Mulligan, Kenny Burrell, The Pointer Sisters, Phil Woods and Spyro Gyra, performing in far-reaching places like Finland, Morocco and Singapore. The Ritz also released two albums: “Steppin’ Out” in 1985; and “Born to Bop” in 1987.
Mickey and her husband moved to New Jersey in 1987 and she put her career on hold to raise a family, but resumed it in 1992 by singing with pianists and trios in clubs throughout the state. In 2008, she returned to her love of harmony singing and became the newest member of the Starliters, a four-part vocal group in the style of The Modernaires, singing with The Silver Starlite Orchestra.
In 2010. when her husband passed away after a long illness, Mickey was determined to continue singing, which was her late spouse’s most-fervent wish. A year later she reconnected with old friend Duke Robillard. Duke remembered that Mickey wanted to be a jazz singer and asked her to join him for some special shows at New York City’s Iridium nightclub. A magical collaboration ensued. Hear it on “Livin’ the Dream.”
Make sure to catch Mickey Freeman performing songs from “Livin’ the Dream’ with shows throughout the Northeast, and appearing as a guest artist with Duke Robillard in New York and New England.
“Freeman’s first solo vocal album, and it is an impressive collection that offers Freeman a chance to show off her jazz chops, as well as making you understand that a straight ballad reading is also right up her alley. May this be the first of many discs from Mickey Freeman.”
-New Jersey Jazz Society
“I don’t know who decided to start this CD out with a duet bass ‘n voice intro soon letting onto brushed drums in the first cut, I’ve Got the World on a String, but, whoever it was, give that sage a raise ’cause it perfectly lays naked a concurrent frailness and confidence in Mickey Freeman’s voice. That first part is just beautiful. By the time the cut winds down, you’re fully ready to devour the rest of Livin’ the Dream. What most distinguishes this release, though, is the combination of Freeman’s gorgeous tone and her upbeat, warm, sweet musical personality.. Not a single flaw exists in the recording or performances, and I doubt you’re going to settle for a single listen, ’cause I sure ain’t.”
– Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Duke Robillard has an eye and ear that knows how to spot women of a certain age that know how to ladle the special sauce on oldies that are known but not over done. Sounding very much like a classic supper club thrush without the boozy, blowzy melancholy edge, Freeman delivers a crisp jazz vocal performance on a welcome set of oldies that have a few warhorses trotting around the ring but isn’t dependent on them to pull you into the tent. Her backing trio knows the moves and the helping hands from Robillard and Scott Hamilton just add tasty frosting to this cake. Jazz vocal fans need to do themselves a favor and check this cream puff out pronto.