Thursday, October 16, 2008

Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer

I just saw this interesting documentary about Anita O'Day. Unfortunately it just finished its short run in Chicago. Even more than just listening to her sing, being able to watch Anita perform is really captivating. She's very expressive, and a really commanding presence. I was surprised to see how bossy she was on the bandstand--she would count off the tempo she wants and her combo damn better well give her exactly what she asked for. The documentary isn't so much focused on relating all the biographical details of the singer's life--the details of her multiple marriages are mentioned but not dwelled on, and sometimes the timeline is pretty hazy. But it does give you a really good portrait of her personality, especially through the interview footage from late in her life.

And of course, there's lots of footage of Anita performing, dancing around with Roy Eldridge, tearing it up on television broadcasts and in concerts. Her rhythmic control and vocal nuance are stunning. Here is a clip of her (pretty famous) performance at the Newport Jazz Festival:

Here are a few Anita O'Day tracks that I play at dances now and again:
Honeysuckle Rose - Anita O'Day's Finest Hour - 3:16
Whisper Not - Anita O'Day and the Three Sounds - 3:00
Let Me Off Uptown - Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz - 3:25

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