Search Manic Mark's Blog

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Cool Heat - Anita O'Day


Hershey Bar

Cool Heat
Anita O'Day Sings Jimmy Giuggre Arrangements
Verve MGV-8312

From the back cover: But its very gentleness and supple lyricism, this is a unique Anita O'Day album. Her singing is no less ardent or swinging than it customarily is; but for the first time in several years, practically a whole program has been given over to one of the most attractive but increasingly less known elements of Anita's work – her capacity to concentrate her emotion, to underplay, and to swing softly.

The most familiar image of Anita has been as one of the last of the irrepressible hot jazz singers who scats with driving abandon and who can swing a tune with the dynamism of Roy Eldridge building a final chorus. In the past couple of years, there has been added the show-biz Anita who has included several carefully tailored novelties in her act; and who has devised a visual-aural effect in night clubs and jazz festivals that resembles a Harper's Bazaar girl show has been reading both Norman Mailer and vintage Dorothy Parker.

Only traces of either of these images are contained in this album. Anita here, for one thing, is entirely musical with almost no concession to Bobby Shortism. The ballads are handles with uncommon musical taste – most notably, I think, Joe and Aileen Albany's You're A Clown which has a wryly attractive  melodic line. The scat singing re-emphasizes the fact that Anita is one of the few singers of either sex who is a master of that tricky device without making it sound as if scat singing were simply a matter of juggling skill. Her scat work here is in thorough musical context – for example, the airy verve of her treatment of Johnny Mandel's Hershey Bar, first made relatively renowned years ago by Stan Getz. The lyricism that relaxes her work in this album is not without occasional irony, as in Mack The Knife and My Heart Belongs To Daddy. Furthermore, no matter what the material and mood, Anita's celebrated beat is vividly alive in all the performances here. I was especially beguiled by the essay in triptych swinging she accomplishes in It Had To Be You with its slow, romantic opening; medium, finger-snapping middle; and Indianapolis Speedway ending.

The choice of tunes is refreshingly surprising. In addition to Hershey Bar, You'er A Clown and the underdone My Heart Belongs To Daddy, there is an aptly light-hearted treatment of the ingenious Orphan Annie. (I hope it someday occurs to a philanthropist if not a foundation to commission Lenny Bruce to write a tune about Daddy Warlocks). Hooray For Hollywood has also become a rarity in recent years, except for Doris Day. It comes from the 1937 Hollywood Hotel with the pre-private eye Dick Powell, Rosemary and Lola Lane (but alas, no Priscilla), Hugh Herbert, and even Louella Parsons, the George Crater of Hollywood columnists.

I have no way of knowing whether this album – recorded in Hollywood in April, 1959 – portends a general change of style in Anita's singing. In any case, however, it is a delightful addition to the O'Day discography and will, I expect, bear up under many playings. Miss O'Day is cooking, as they say in the less esoteric trade journals, with less of a bravura display of flame here, but the temperature is just as high, and the results, I think, add up to one of the best readings she has ever made. – Nat Hentoff

Mack The Knife
Easy Come, Easy Go
Orphan Annie
You're A Clown
Gone With The Wind
Hooray For Hollywood
It Had To Be You
Come Rain Or Come Shine
Hershey Bar
A Lover Is Blue
My Heart Belongs To Daddy
The Way You Look Tonight

No comments:

Post a Comment

Howdy! Thanks for leaving your thoughts!