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Pair's Shared Visions : The paths of guitarist Tim Weston and singer Shelby Flint crossed in 1971, and the meeting has led to a partnership, musically and romantically.

September 17, 1993|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Zan Stewart writes regularly about jazz for The Times

SHERMAN OAKS — It's understandable that guitarist Tim Weston has always felt that music was his destiny. After all, his father, Paul Weston, a bandleader, arranger and composer, was the head of artists and repertoire at Columbia and Capitol Records; his mother, singer Jo Stafford, had several No. 1 hits in the '40s and '50s.

Singer Shelby Flint's background was not so glamorous. Her father was an engineer; her mother, a housewife.

But she grew up loving words and music, and says she started writing songs at age 11 "the way other people kept journals."

Flint and Tim Weston's musical paths crossed in 1971, when they met on a recording session where Weston played guitar.

Twenty years later, Weston hired Flint for an album he was producing, and the pair realized that they had similar musical visions.

"We kept trading tapes, sharing ideas about music and our feelings about what we wanted to create," Flint said. "I knew we had an affinity, that we both seemed to be reaching for something musically in the same direction."

That affinity has now resulted in a partnership, both musical and romantic, as the pair have collaborated on "Providence," a mostly vocal album that leaves plenty of room for improvisation and which is the first release on Weston's new Soul Coast label.

The guitarist has been known primarily for his invigorating work with Wishful Thinking, the progressive Los Angeles-based contemporary jazz band he led from 1984 to 1990.

Flint, whose "Angel on My Shoulder" reached No. 22 on the Billboard pop charts in 1962, has carved a reputation for herself as one of the more unusual voices on the Southern California contemporary jazz scene.

The six vocal originals that Weston and Flint wrote for "Providence" blend their common contemporary jazz currency with the moody understatement of classics jazz vocals from the '50s and '60s.

"Shelby and I made a conscious effort to recall the moods of certain records," among them the album that singer Johnny Hartman made with tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, or trumpeter Chet Baker's vocal albums, said Weston, who was born in Santa Monica, raised in Beverly Hills and lives in West Hills.

"I was always knocked out by those albums, the feeling they evoke, and I was trying to bring that intimacy into a more modern context," said Weston, who appears with Flint Friday at Le Cafe in Sherman Oaks.

Flint, a Chicago native, was intrigued by what she called the "transparency" of the Baker and Hartman/Coltrane albums, an effect she described as stating something simply instead of with vocal histrionics.

"I was trying to stay out of my own way, let the people come in rather than you come out at them," she said. "That's a hard thing to do."

The lyrics were, likewise, "not blatant," Weston said. "We were trying to say things about love but capture them in a more oblique way."

"More impressionistically," added Flint, who was raised in North Hollywood and who lives in Topanga Canyon.

For instance, there are Flint's lyrics to Weston's "Skyline," which was originally written to recapture a vision of New York City's skyline at dusk, as seen by Weston through a hotel window.

Now the tune resonates with words about both the decay of a society and the promise of a new day.

A sample lyric: " . . . I want to start anew, find my heart with you. Take a chance, find the way beyond this skyline, and the dusk of a dying day."

"Can't Move Me," which Flint wrote before she and Weston began composing pieces for "Providence" in January, 1992, is more direct. "It talks about being unmovable in a relationship, being committed to it," Flint said.

Neither Weston nor Flint have appeared in public for some time, and Le Cafe owner Dale Jaffe said he is thrilled to have them back.

"They are two of the biggest draws we've ever had," he said. "They'll be a great mixture, some of Shelby's beautiful voice and Tim's sound. I'm sorry that it's just for one night."

Weston said that at Le Cafe, he and Flint will do not only material from the new album but older songs from their individual careers, selections for "people who have known us from our other musical lives."

Asked what it would be like working with her musical and romantic partner for the first time, Flint laughed.

"I'm a little nervous," she said. "It's kind of letting people in on something."

Weston added: "I'm pretty excited about this. It's never happened to me before."

Where and When Who: Shelby Flint and Tim Weston. Location: Room Upstairs at Le Cafe, 14633 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Hours: 9 and 11 tonight. Price: $10 cover, two-drink minimum. Call: (818) 986-2662.

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