“Being born a woman is an awful tragedy… Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars – to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording – all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…”
— Sylvia Plath
Thank you for being here, Sathima. I am so grateful that I had the chance to meet you before you left… May you go in peace.
The track above comes from the album, A Morning in Paris, recorded in 1963 but only released in 1996.
Sathima Benjamin met Duke Ellington while he was in Zurich for a short engagement in February of 1963. Standing in the wings during most of the Ellington band’s performance, once the concert ended she insisted that Duke hear her husband Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand)’s trio at the Club Africana, one of the few local jazz spots where the couple could work fairly regularly. Duke obliged and liked what he heard, but he also insisted that Benjamin sing for him. He adored her voice and promptly arranged for the couple to fly to Paris and record separate albums on the Reprise label (at the time, Ellington was the A&R man for Reprise Records). Ibrahim’s record, Duke Ellington Presents The Dollar Brand Trio, was released the following year and subsequently helped him build a following in Europe and the USA. Benjamin’s recording, unfortunately, languished in the vault because Reprise executives did not think she was “commercial” enough. It was eventually released under the title A Morning in Paris, but not until 1996.
Read about what made her so special yet kept her in obscurity HERE.