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



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ERNESTINE ANDERSON

A Song for You

HighNote HCD 7187

 

 

 

 
 
1. This Can't be Love
2. A Song for You
3. Make Someone Happy
4. Skylark
5. A Lovely Way To Spend an Evening
6. Candy
7. Day by Day
8. For All We Know
 
 
Ernestine Anderson - Vocals
Houston Person - Tenor sax
Lafayette Harris Jr. - Piano
Chip Jackson - Bass
Willie Jones III - Drums.

Of Ernestine Anderson it might be said, as Shakespeare said about Cleopatra, that "age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety". She was born in November 1928, and this CD was recorded in April 2008, so you can do the arithmetic for yourself. Suffice it to say that Ernestine is a veteran singer, although "vintage" might be a better word, as she seems to have matured with age - and her voice shows few of the weaknesses that afflict some other pensionable vocalists. Perhaps she sometimes has a certain hoarseness, but she uses this to her advantage - for example, to increase the depth of conviction at the end of the title-track.

This album only lasts for 45 minutes but it is packed with superb music. Right from the start, with This Can't Be Love, you know you are in for a treat. Ernestine  treats the Rodgers & Hart song like the real jazz singer that she is: varying the melody, syncopating various lines, and phrasing like a jazz instrumentalist. Songs like this - and, indeed, most of the pieces on the album - might be considered hackneyed, but Anderson makes them absolutely fresh by approaching each one with an open mind and jazz awareness. For instance, Candy is taken at an unusually slow tempo, so that Ernestine can wring the utmost emotion from what would otherwise seem trite lyrics. You can sense the singer savouring the sugary words on her tongue. As a change from these jazz standards, Ernestine sings Leon Russell's A Song for You, from which she evokes a great deal of heartfelt emotion.

Ernestine Anderson is well served by her accompanists: particularly tenorist Houston Person, whose years accompanying vocalist Etta Jones have equipped him to supply exactly the right sort of punctuation to Ernestine's vocals. He also adds several elegant solos which have the impact of the blues but the economy of a player who knows what to leave out as well as what to put in. Pianist Lafayette Harris Jr. and bassist Chip Jackson are also supportive, while drummer Willie Jones III stays discreetly in the background.

If I had to pick out one track from this rich album, it would be Skylark. Ernestine's lived-in voice conveys a wealth of meaning in Johnny Mercer's poetic lyrics, and Houston Person's tenor solo overflows with feeling.

Tony Augarde



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