'Black Coffee' is one of the all-time great late night jazz vocal records: it paved the way for the best work of June Christie, Julie London and others; as good as Sheila Jordan's Blue Note 'Portrait' of 1962.
Recorded with her small band in 1953 it was one of the very first sessions to be more than just a random collection of songs--it sets a mood, it is all of a piece, it is thematically coherent. Love, regret, sensuality, loneliness (though also with bits of charm and joy--check that wonderful 'My heart Belongs To Daddy'or 'Under My Skin'!) Four bonus tracks extend the mood, finishing with a breath-taking Rogers/Hart 'There's a Small Hotel'.
But what a bonus with 'Sea Shells', recorded three years later; not a big seller, and not even mentioned in a number of Lee biographies, it is a wondrous, poetic experience: chinese poetry, american folk, nursery songs and rhymes, debussy adaptations, and related originals, just voice and harp and some harpsichord, it resembles nothing but itself, it defies categorisation.
Initially shelved, 16 tracks long, it deserves to be better known. It shares with Black Coffee that it is personal, intimate, ruminative. It is the reflective dawn to Coffee's wee small hours.
You won't always be in the mood for these wildly different sessions; but they are both beautiful in their way, and your heart will be rewarded when you give either of them your ears and time and soul.