Anita O’Day: An Evening With Anita O’Day

Vinyl reissue of 1955 album shows O'Day's ability to dismember and reconstruct familiar melodies and adds bonus tracks

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First released in 1955, and one of the many excellent recordings that Anita made for Norman Granz and his expanding Verve label, these three (1954-1955) sessions with three different small groups display her astonishing virtuosity and uncanny ability to dismember and reconstruct familiar melodies – for example, The Man I Love.

On Anita’s Blues (her own composition) she displays her talents as songwriter and improviser. She also delivers a moving performance of You Don’t Know What Love Is. Bonus tracks from 1955 and 1956 feature her with Paul Smith, Gene Harris, Barney Kessel, Alvin Stoller and Larry Bunker. Anita is equally at home with all her accompanists. Her virtuosity and inventiveness are readily apparent in these small-group settings.

Every (brief) 78rpm track offers unique pleasures. As Richard Cook reflected, ”At fast tempos she was incomparable, lighter and more fluent than Ella, less regal and more daring than Sarah. . . she could scat with dancing ease, and bent lyrics and melodies with more imagination than anyone prior to Betty Carter.” But even Anita cannot endow the lyrics of Frankie And Johnny or Gypsy In My Soul with more than superficial and ersatz emotion. Yet her renderings of Just One Of Those Things and I Cover The Waterfront are nonpareil.

Given her inability to employ vibrato or use vibrato, Anita developed a fast delivery and impeccable intonation to hone her skills as a superb vocal improviser. Anita’s Blues in particular reveals her jazz roots and credentials, as do Just One of Those Things and From This Moment On. This is prime and comparatively early Anita – and not to be missed. 

Discography
Just One Of Those Things; Gypsy In My Soul; The Man I Love; Frankie And Johnny; Anita’s Blues; I Cover The Waterfront; Who Cares?; Fly Me To The Moon (27.30) – You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me; From This Moment On; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Medley: There’ll Never Be Another You/Just Friends; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; Let’s Fall In Love; *Beautiful Love; *Don’t Be That Way (23.03)
O’Day (v) on all tracks with collective personnel: Arnold Ross, Bud Lavin (p); Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow (g); Monty Budwig (b); Jackie Mills, John Poole, Larry Bunker (d).
*Bonus tracks: Paul Smith (p); Barney Kessel (g); Joe Mondragon (b); Alvin Stoller (d). Gene Harris (p); Andy Simpkins (b); Bill Dowdy (d); Buddy Bregman (arr). Los Angeles, 15 April and 28 June 1954 and 11 August 1955. Hollywood, 6 December 1955. New York, 15 October 1962 and 18 December 1956.
Supper Club 019