FROM THE LINER NOTES BY NAT HENTOFF: Anna de Leon is one of more beguiling - and moving - storytellers I've heard in a good many years. And because her musicianship is infused with her life stories, Anna evokes from the songs she chooses much more than their composers and lyricists could have imagined. In this set, she moves the listener into a twilit groove that, I expect, will result in this recording being played often, at special times. As she says, this set "evolved from a desire to record some of my favorite songs, the ballads of rainy nights, the songs that light a candle on dark days." Anna's sound and phrasing are so intimately evocative that her music will stay in your mind long after the recording is over. She brought into the studio musicians who, as she put it, "have the heart for these songs." She and they, in two afternoons, acted on their knowledge that the essence of the jazz experience - for musician and listener - is spontaneity in both the playing and the continual sounds of surprise that music such as this gives listeners whenever they return to it. Neither Anna nor the other musicians wanted "to rehearse the life out of these songs." So they were all done in one take, except for Black Coffee, which took two. Duke Ellington once told me that he greatly preferred to do no more than two or three takes because he said, "Otherwise, the music dies." So easeful and intimate is the musical "conversation" in this set that you become part of it - along with pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Peter Barshay, drummer Harold Jones, and on two memorable vocals, Taj Mahal. As for Anna de Leon's roots - where she comes from in the rainbow of sounds that formed her - she notes: "From the first time I heard them, Lightnin' Hopkins, Elmore James, Bobby Bland, and so many more have touched me. And for gospel, Miss Mahalia, The Staples family (especially Roebuck and Mavis), the Soul Stirrers, the early Mighty Clouds of Joy, and other quartets." She adds: "My own music must be influenced by blues and gospel, even though I don't hear the precise sound influences in my voice." As for the pulse of jazz, Anna says, "I love the music, the endless possibility, the 'conversation' with the other musicians. When the sound itself is beautiful, and when the groove joins to the music, then, happy or sad, I love it and it can't be denied." Having cited some of her blues and gospel influences, it's worth adding - because her singing will, I expect, make you want to know even more about her - that her large list of jazz influences includes Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat Cole, Hoagy Carmichael, Joe Williams, Johnny Hartman and Cesaria Evora whose "Morna," Anna says, "inspired this project." And at the beginning, her father playing piano at home led to her deep and deepening pleasure in Thelonious Monk, Otis Spann, Ray Charles, Hank Jones and Ed Kelly. But it's the soul thrust of blues and gospel that fuels the spirit in her voice; and the blues and gospel, after all, are at the core of the jazz that endures. A quote from Billie Holiday opened another dimension in her life. Billie has said, "All I ever wanted was a little place where I could serve good food and sing whenever I felt like it." Ending her law practice, in 1997, Anna opened Anna's jazz Bistro in Berkeley, recently moving it to a larger venue and calling it Anna's Jazz Island. A rather rare phenomenon in jazz, she is a club owner who, to say the least, identifies with the musicians. The credo of this club is "all jazz, all ages welcome, all the time." From the first track of "The Sweet Bittersweet," it's clear how Anna de Leon exemplifies what will keep jazz alive: so long as there are musicians who have the life experience to answer Duke Ellington's song, "What Am I Here For?" They knew why, as Anna de Leon does, and now you can share her stories. Nat Hentoff, 2004.