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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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ANITA O'DAY

Live in '63 and '70

Jazz Icons by Naxos 2.119015

DVD

 

 


1. Sweet Georgia Brown
2. Let's Fall in Love
3. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
4. Fly Me to the Moon
5. Honeysuckle Rose
6. On Green Dolphin Street
7. Tea for Two
8. Let's Fall in Love
9. Yesterday / Yesterdays
10. Four Brothers
11. I Can't Get Started
12. Sweet Georgia Brown
13. Tea for Two

Anita O’Day - Vocals
Göran Engdahl - Piano (tracks 1-7)
Roman Dylag - Bass (tracks 1-7)
John Poole - Drums (tracks 1-7)
George Arvanitas - Piano (tracks 8-13)
Jacky Samson - Bass (tracks 8-13)
Charles Saudrais - Drums (tracks 8-13)

 

This is another in the Jazz Icons series of films discovered in the archives and made available for our enjoyment. I definitely enjoyed this DVD, even though the footage is in black-and-white. It consists of two sessions recorded for Scandinavian TV programmes in 1963 and 1970. As I said in a previous CD review, Anita is at her best in small-group settings, and that is certainly true here.

The first session was filmed at the Narren Arena theatre in Sweden, with O'Day backed by a Swedish pianist and Polish bassist plus Anita's drummer-of-choice, John Poole (according to the sleeve-notes, Anita's collaborator in heroin consumption). The low lighting makes it difficult to see everything clearly but the music is so good that it carries the viewer along.

This and the other session both include Sweet Georgia Brown and Tea for Two, the songs which brought O'Day to many people's attention in the film Jazz on a Summer's Day. Both songs virtually became obligatory in Anita's repertoire, although she performs them differently each time. For example, the second version of Tea for Two is noticeably slower than the first.

Let's Fall in Love illustrates O'Day's daring practice of delaying words and inserting them in unexpected places - apparently off the beat but actually in perfect rhythm. It also shows her high-flying improvisation on melodies. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square displays the gentler side of O'Day, mainly accompanied simply by the piano.

In Fly Me to the Moon, her hand gestures and body movements underline her very special phrasing. On Green Dolphin Street opens with its virtually forgotten verse. The set ends with Tea for Two at breakneck speed, in which Anita swaps pairs of bars and then single bars around the supporting group.

The second session was filmed in Oslo at the larger Njardhallen Sportshall, with a French trio led by the unsung pianist George Arvanitas. I remember Arvanitas being singled out for praise by trumpeter Bill Coleman, and this DVD shows that the praise was well deserved. George plays fine solos on Yesterday/Yesterdays and I Can't Get Started (the latter almost as adventurous as O'Day's vocals) and he responds well to Anita's unpredictable twists and turns.

Seven years after the previous set, Anita's voice seems to have lost some of its richness, and her pitching occasionally falters. Yet she was still a great vocalist, whether scatting through Four Brothers or delivering another neglected verse - in I Can't Get Started.

This DVD contains proof that Anita O'Day was a mesmerising performer. One watches her wondering what miracle she will achieve next. As arranger Bill Holman said: "She was a jazz singer" - emphasising the "jazz".

Tony Augarde



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