Norman Mapp: Nothin' But Soul

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Norman Mapp
Norman Mapp was one of the finest male jazz vocalists of the 1960s, topped only by Johnny Hartman. Leading jazz players in the late 1950s and '60s were hip to Mapp, but virtually everyone else drew a blank. Odds are you aren't familiar with him either or the one album he recorded—Jazz Ain't Nothin' But Soul.

Recorded in March 1961 for Epic, the album featured Clark Terry (tp), Seldon Powell (ts and fl), Tommy Flanagan (p), George Duvivier or Peck Morrison (b) and Dave Baily (d). Nine of the 10 songs recorded were moody Mapp originals and a goldmine for jazz singers looking for new intimate material. This is hip late-night stuff, a scene made by jazz musicians after their regular gigs ended in the early morning hours.

Born in Queens, N.Y., in 1928, Mapp started his music career as a singer with the U.S. Army band in Europe during World War II. By the late 1950s, Mapp was focused on composing. Billboard in 1958 reported that three of Mapp's songs had been recorded by Mickey and Sylvia (Rock and Stroll Room), Beverly Kenney (Your Love Is My Love) and Dakota Staton (In the Night). In 1966, Mapp recorded Big Spender for Capitol. In 1960, he recorded two sides of a 45 for the Jaro label.

Given how good Mapp was, it's hard to fathom how he managed to remain so far under the radar. Dinah Washington (above) reportedly became his mentor after hearing him sing at a Harlem club. She encouraged him to continue writing songs and singing and helped him launch his career. That alone should have landed him a multi-album deal with a solid label.

Yet Mapp all but disappeared after the album came out. Three bonus tracks on the album are included from Seldon Powell's We Paid Our Dues recorded for Epic in July 1961.   

Interestingly, Mapp's Epic album was produced by Mike Berniker (above), who produced Barbra Streisand's first three albums between 1963 and '64, and Berniker later signed Daryl Hall and John Oates to RCA.

That's about all I could find on Mapp. Even his obit was nowhere to be found.

Norman Mapp died in 1988.

JazzWax clips: Here's the title track...



Here's Blues in Bloom...



And here's Who Do You Think You Are...



Extras. Here's Mickey and Sylvia's singing Mapp's Rock and Stroll Room...



Here's Beverly Kenney singing Mapp's Your Love Is My Love...



Here's Dakota Staton, backed by the George Shearing Quintet, singing Mapp's In the Night...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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