1. This Can't be Love
2. A Song for You
3. Make Someone Happy
5. A Lovely Way To Spend an Evening
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.