Anne Phillips: Born To Be Blue

On her debut in 1959 she was hailed a talent to watch; later she did sessions, including with Ray Charles, and ran inner-city music schemes


Most of Anne Phillips’ career has involved studio work, in backing groups (including the Ray Charles Singers), commercials and running music schemes for inner-city children, but it started in the 50s, this being her only recording from that time, issued on Roulette. Her next solo album wouldn’t be until 2001 – Live At The Jazz Bakery.

There’s a certain similarity to the tracks: wistful, reflective, slightly melancholic, occasionally sultry; but her diction is clear and she conveys the meaning of the songs well. At the time, Billboard described her as “a talent to watch”. The arrangements tend to be over-orchestrated but strings were considered the key to commercial success in those days. It Could Happen To You is a good example – the first bars of the Van Heusen/Burke classic are a delight – just Phillips and Bernie Leighton’s piano – then the strings arrive. Conversely, they’re more low-key and effective on You Don’t Know What Love Is, which also benefits from Doc Severinson’s evocatively distant muted trumpet and some blues-inflected guitar.

The title track and Easy Street have warm tenor solos by Walt Levinsky, unfortunately far too brief. It’s a shame Phillips didn’t record at the time with a small jazz group in night-club style, as there’s an individuality and intimacy about her singing. There’s also the haunting sound of an altoist in the next apartment on When Sunny Gets Blue.

Two extra tracks are included, a trio and a quartet led by Mundell Lowe, without Phillips’ vocals – presumably as comparisons to the vocal versions.

This is part of an impressive series of limited-edition vinyl issues by Supper Club, all by female jazz singers of the 50s. Some are familiar; others, like this, are something of a rarity. It was recently issued on CD in Fresh Sound’s The Best Voices Time Forgot series, paired with Jane Harvey’s Leave It To Jane!

(1) Lonelyville; I’ve Got To Pass Your House To Get To Mine; A Stranger In Town; I Don’t Want To Walk Without You; There Will Never Be Another You; When Sunny Gets Blue; (2) You Don’t Know What Love Is; (1) Born To Be Blue; Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week; Easy Street; For Heaven’s Sake; It Could Happen To You; You Don’t Know What Love Is; (3) It Could Happen To You (39.33)
Phillips (v) with:
(1) Kermit Leslie & his Orchestra: Doc Severinson (t); Walt Levinsky (ww); Bernie Leighton (p); Mundell Lowe, Barry Galbraith (g); Milt Hinton (b); George Duvivier (b); Osie Johnson (d); plus string orchestra. New York, 1959.
(2) Mundell Lowe (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Ed Shaughnessy (d). NY, 20 February 1956.
(3) Lowe (g); Billy Taylor (p); Les Grinage (b); Ed Thigpen (d). NY, 7 March 1957.
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