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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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ANITA O'DAY

Four Classic Albums

Avid AMSC 963

 

 


 
CD1

Tracks 1-11: ‘Anita Sings The Most’

1. Medley: ‘S Wonderful/They Can’t Take That Away From Me
2. Tenderly
3. Old Devil Moon
4. Love Me or Leave Me
5. We’ll Be Together Again
6. Stella By Starlight
7. Taking a Chance on Love
8. Them There Eyes
9. I’ve Got The World on a String
10. You Turned The Tables on Me
11. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Tracks 12-23: ‘The Lady Is A Tramp’

12. Rock ‘n’ Roll Blues
13. Love For Sale
14. Lullaby of the Leaves
15. Lover Come Back To Me
16. No Soap, No Hope Blues
17. Speak Low
18. Pagan Love Song
19. Ain’t This A Wonderful Day
20. Somebody’s Crying
21. Vaya Con Dios
22. The Lady is a Tramp
23. Strawberry Moon
CD2

Tracks 1-12: ‘An Evening With Anita O’Day’

1. Just One Of Those Things
2. The Gypsy In My Soul
3. The Man I Love
4. Frankie and Johnny
5. Anita’s Blues
6. I Cover The Waterfront
7. You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me
8. From This Moment On
9. You Don’t Know What Love Is
10. Medley: There Will Never Be Another You/Just Friends
11. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
12. Let’s Fall In Love
Tracks 13-24: ‘Anita’

13. You’re The Top
14. Honeysuckle Rose
15. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
16. Who Cares?
17. I Can’t Get Started
18. Fine And Dandy
19. As Long As I Live
20. No Moon At All
21. Time After Time
22. I’ll See You In My Dreams
23. I Fall In Love Too Easily
24. Beautiful Love
 

The more I hear Anita O'Day, the higher she rises in my notional league table of great female jazz singers. Maybe she doesn't quite challenge my Top Three of Fitzgerald, Vaughan and Holiday, but she is surely not far down the list - perhaps in the class inhabited by such vocalists as Betty Carter and Carmen McRae.

Although she started as a big-band singer (like many of her contemporaries), she was most often at her best when accompanied by small groups, as she is on the first of these four albums originally issued as LPs in the 1950s (here skilfully compressed onto two CDs). Recorded in 1957, Anita Sings the Most gave her as accompanists the superb Oscar Peterson Trio, with Herb Ellis on guitar and Ray Brown on bass, plus Anita's drummer-of-choice, John Poole. Oscar Peterson was an excellent accompanist for singers, and his small group gave Anita the space to improvise and take liberties with songs.

In fact she often takes great liberties with melodies and lyrics, and the backing group works amazingly well to follow and even anticipate her wildest excursions. In this sense she was a true jazz vocalist: inventing on the spot and often at lightning speed. On the opening medley for example, she changes key unexpectedly, crosses bar-lines, and seems in danger of getting lost but somehow finishes in synch with her accompanists.

The second album, The Lady is a Tramp, starts with the unsettling shock of Rock 'n' Roll Blues, blasting away in an embarrassingly ponderous attempt to fit the fashion of the time (1952). It is a surprise to find that the arranger was Ralph Burns, famous for subtler pieces like Summer Sequence and Bijou which he wrote for the Woody Herman band. Of the dozen songs on this original LP, arranging duties were equally shared between Ralph Burns, Roy Kral and Larry Russell, but the arrangements tend to lack the responsiveness which made Anita's recordings with Oscar Peterson so special. An arranged ensemble is more inflexible than an improvising small group, and it forces Anita to be less adventurous than with Peterson. In Lullaby of the Leaves, O'Day wanders badly off-key but in The Lady is a Tramp she returns to her former daring.

The second CD brings us back to accompanying groups which are mainly trios or quartets, although eight of the twelve tracks on the album called Anita employed arrangements by Buddy Bregman which augmented the jazz quartets with either strings or trombones.

Barney Kessel's guitar enlivens the first four tracks of this CD, and Anita proves that she can handle slow songs like The Man I Love and You Don't Know What Love Is, with a depth of emotion reminiscent of Billie Holiday.

So this double album has its highs and its lows - but many more highs than lows. And it's another of those incredible bargains from the Avid label.


Tony Augarde


 

 

 

 



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