Though best known for her 1970 R&B crossover smash hit “Band of Gold,” Freda Payne has always first and foremost been a jazz singer. Now, as iconic in 2014 for her timeless beauty and stage appeal as she is for her artistic versatility, Freda Payne remains among music’s brightest-shining stars.
Her latest album, Come Back To Me Love, marks not only a return to the big band and strings-laden classics from her mid-’60s beginnings with Impulse! but also marks a return to her hometown of Detroit. That makes this 14-song album featuring Grammy® Award-winner Bill Cunliffe’s musical arrangements—from the vibes-kissed Kenny Rankin waltz “Haven’t We Met” to the lonely evening fireplace musings of “Lately”—a beautiful homecoming.
Starting her career with the Jimmy Wilkins Big Band at age 14, Payne went on to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem alongside Billy Eckstine, backed by Quincy Jones and His Orchestra, comedian Redd Foxx, and the dance team Coles & Atkins. She also graced the stage with Duke Ellington for two nights in Pittsburgh, after which he composed “Blue Piano” just for her. Asked if much has changed since those first 1963 jazz recordings, she marvels, “In ’63 I was nervous as hell—uptight and pushing too hard to be perfect. This time I felt like I was in heaven. I was in Capitol Records’ Studio A with 40 musicians, singing over impeccable arrangements. I was much more relaxed and secure within myself.” Freda Payne’s training and experience render her a rare vocal artist who is stylistically beyond category.