Mr. Music MMCD-7027 (www.worldsrecords.com)
For those of us who believe Anita O’Day was one of the most important among jazz singers, this brand new release of previously unavailable live material is a divine treat. Those not in the know should Google O’Day’s mind-blowing renditions of Sweet Georgia Brown and Tea for Two, filmed by Bert Stern at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. With these two cuts as bonus tracks, this CD features four other selections from that famous set, including a brilliantly phrased Have You Met Miss Jones and a droll ditty referred to as the novelty number, Varsity Drag.
Also included are several impressive performances from the late 1950s, O’Day’s heyday. Take The Man I Love recorded at the 1957 Timex All-Star Jazz Show: she starts off rubato, decorating phrases expertly with dissonance; then, improvising like the finest of horn players, she swings the melody to Mars and back, but never loses the lyric in the process. Four Brothers and Love Me or Leave Me demonstrate O’Day’s incredible ease with fast tempos; her time feel is infectiously on the money and she is never rushed, always relaxed. The singer’s cool, tongue-in-cheek approach is best exposed on vehicles like Honeysuckle Rose, which she performed literally thousands of times in her career, but never the same way twice. Personnel includes Benny Goodman, Jack Sheldon, Lionel Hampton, Flip Phillips and others jazz greats. This CD is a worthwhile jazz history lesson. A bargain at any price.