Apr 30, 2015

Queen Anita, Mouse Jazz, Jane's Creamy Dream, Plus Time With Phil And An Old Meets New Secret Song!

Yes, more Anita. I can't help myself! I hope you don't mind (you don't, do you?). Oh, and I so want that playing card above of her as The Queen of Diamonds (it really exists). Gimmie-gimmie-gimmie. And I'm sure she'd approve of it being diamonds, too - instead of hearts, for example - since she changed her last name from "Colton" to "O'Day." Why? Because "O'Day" is Pig Latin for "dough," that's why. Yes, she's just that kind of gal.

In 1985, she showed the East Coast jazz contingent how the West Coast could swing when she wowed them at Carnegie Hall. There's quite a few highlights in this set, but the one that'll really lay you flat is her combination of "'S'Wonderful/You Can't Take that Away With Me," in which she freestyles with her band, including her long-time co-hort (and sometime lover), drummer John Poole. With both of them riffing with their rhythms and the melody line, it's a jazz match made in Heaven.

She was sixty-five years old at the time, celebrating her 50th year as a performer - or, as she says in an article preceding the show, her 51st (because they couldn't book Carnegie the year before). In a Christian Science Monitor report about the concert, she's asked why she still keeps touring so much. "I get down to $58 in my account, then I gotta travel. It's good - keeps you on your toes." This is one of her best live albums.

Another terrific Anita live LP is 1975's rare "Live in Tokyo" - a Go, Anita, Go Cheerful Exclusive! - which again features her collaborating with John Poole, as well as pianist Merrill Hoover, pictured below. 

Anita was notorious for giving pianists a difficult time; many of them just couldn't keep up. Merrill was the only one she trusted implicitly. A subtle and responsive San Francisco-based player, he began working with Anita in the 1950s and she loved his ability to improv at a whim - which she was prone to do, sometimes changing octaves or rhythms in a blink. In other words, he knew how to listen, or think together with whomever he was accompanying, especially Anita. It didn't hurt, also, that he wasn't intimidated or put off, as many male musicians were, with Anita being in charge and calling the shots. The recording isn't the best quality, but I think it ranks right up there with the Carnegie LP in terms of highlighting Anita in a no-holds barred live setting. 

Cats, as you know, have a special appreciation for jazz (you do know this, right?). And apparently...

...so do mice. And so does Gil Goldstein, the jazz pianist who's part of a trio on this 2001 collection of Disney songs gone jazz, baby, jazz. Wait - I can just see some of you rolling your eyes. If listening to a jazz version of "Some Day My Prince Will Come," for example, sounds a bit too sticky for words, I understand (really, I do), but give this a shot, because it's anything but sappy. Joined by the likes of Herbie Mann, David Sanborn, trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist Pat Martino, this is a nifty assortment of tunes, perfect for dinner guests and such, or just chillaxin' (as the kids say). Plus, hearing Herbie Mann give his all to "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Faeries" is worth the ride (in a good way).

Behold Miss Jane Monheit, a twice Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist who's played The Birdland Club and Lincoln Center in NYC, Ronnie Scott's in London, The Coliseum in Barcelona; basically anywhere where people like their jazz singers dreamy and plush-sounding.

For those of you who might fear Diana Krall...huh? Wha? Sorry, just saying her name puts me to sleep. AnywayKrallissoboring, Jane is the real deal, a jazz performer with a luscious, but expressive, voice, which she puts to good use in a string of sparkling jazz standards. Do not be put off by the opening track - "Over the Rainbow" again? really? - because just after, from "Hit The Road To Dreamland" onward, her stirring, clear-as-a-bell voice will win you over. I promise. And, yes, this is a Just Jane Cheerful Exclusive! (but you knew that). I especially enjoy her version of "Waters Of March," which starts in a standard fashion, then takes off like a bird twirling in happy loop-di-loops. You can't help but smile.

"Time," as the Steve Miller Band says, "keeps on slippin' (slippin', slippin') into  the future." And then there's Einstein's thoughts on the matter, which boil down to, "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Think about that. Get back to me after your head explodes.

My head certainly did a "Scooby-wha?" when I saw Errol Morris' 1991 documentary "A Brief History Of Time" based on the Stephen Hawking book, and not just because Stevie is a such a card - and, like, sooooo smart - but also because of Philip Glass' music, which seemed of a piece with his eerily robotic voice. Strangely, a soundtrack was never released until now. Why did it take so long for an original Glass work to get released? I've no idea, but it's well worth a listen even if you haven't seen the movie - which is truly worthwhile, by the way. I saw it years ago on home video and watched stupefied. Who knew the universe was so and strange and time so infinite?

The Secret Song File is, as you know, utterly timeless - young in body, wise in mind - or as Einstein says, "Everything at once." Believe it or not, this really does have something to do with the spanking new CD she's been listening to, a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of (caution: hints ahead) creating emojis or antiquing.

Confused? Alright, take a moment and imagine that you're in a speakeasy in the 1920s and a small jazz band starts performing "Gangsta's Paradise" or "Bad Romance." Intrigued? I thought you might be. And see? Everything really can happen at once. Just like Einstein says.

Of course, drugs can do that for you, too. 

Waste a li'l time in the comments, if you like! 


tony said...

Thanks from Onytay for the info on O'Day's name. I see she was also coined the "Jezebel of Jazz!"

I became a "Jane" fan when I bought this cd and I heard her sing "Spring Can Really....." just as haunting as Julius LaRosa's (!) version.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're welcome. Actually, though, Anita loathed the "Jezebel Of Jazz" moniker, which was given to her by the press after she was busted the first time (for marijuana possession). She wanted to be appreciated for her work, and at the time, all anyone wanted to know about was her sinful use of the ganja. How times ch-ch-change!

Larry said...

We have something big in common. Our favorite singer is Anita O'Day.

Have you ever read her autobiography? It's quite amazing. Some years after it was published a fan gushed to Anita about how much she loved the book. Anita replied,"I've never read it." It's possible she was telling the truth. Regardless, it's still an interesting read.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I loved her autobiography! And the documentary makes a nice companion piece to it, if you haven't seen it.