January is such a slog, isn't? All those consecutive holidays - then it's back to work. Now more than ever, I need jazz, baby, jazz. It's crucial to keeping my sanity, but only if it's performed by artists who know how to do it.
Enter Carol Sloane, whose been singing jazz professionally since she was in her early teens. She even filled in for Annie Ross of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, which is when things got really-really interesting, because with a wider audience came a record deal. Yet that's also when things got really-really bummer-ish, because she didn't quite catch on with the critics or the public (as she should have) and seemingly vanished, though in actuality, she worked as a secretary for fifteen long years, sang locally and recorded a few albums which no one noticed because they were only released in Japan. But in 1979, she made a triumphant return with "Something Cool" - a Comeback Carol Cheerful Exclusive! - and jazz aficionados took notice (as they should have the first time).
She's a breathtaking hard-bop singer and when she scats, trust me, it's just blissful. Plus, she's even more fun when you consider that she looks like an everyday soccer mom who regularly brings Noodle Kugle or Duchess Potatoes (hers are never gluey) to the potluck or neighborhood social. Am I right? Then she opens that mouth of hers and sings. Which just goes to show - what, exactly? I'm not sure. Who cares? She's exactly what I need to shoo the January blahs away.
But let's not stop with Carol, not when Lee's around to follow up:
Like Carol, Lee Wiley had trouble establishing a foothold the first time around in the late 1930s and early 40s, but come the early 50s, she soared. She was even the opener for the very first Newport Jazz Festival. In fact, she was such a smash throughout the decade that come the late 50s, she decided, "Meh, time to retire," only to return triumphant (again) in the 70s. Lee's the epitome of what they used to call a "hot cool singer," which is another way of saying that she's technically dead on, but has that extra something - that finespun sizzle. Released in 1971 when she was in her 60s, "Back Home Again" would be her final studio recording and the sound is warm, mellowed swing. This version even includes a few demo versions, which are always welcome.
Meanwhile, I can't get enough of June Christy:
But then I can't get enough of Peggy Lee, either:
Why choose? Sometimes you really can have the whole enchilada. In this generous 5-disc set are every single one of their commercial radio recordings cut during the swing era in the 1940s (so early in their careers). And get this, most of the songs they perform were never recorded by either of them before (or after) these Capital sessions. Why, it's like getting two brand new, super-deluxe LPs - or a full-blown riot of enjoyment by two of the best singers ever, male or female, and if you don't agree, honest, I just don't know to do with you. Slap you? Tickle you? Tie you down and make you listen? I'll do it, I rully-rully will, so don't push it.
Finally, only Maxine can truly whisk away the very last of your January blahs:
Maxine Sullivan was in it for the long haul (like Peggy). In fact, she sang and performed professionally almost non-stop from the 1930s to the 80s. Some consider her a precursor of sorts to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, but honestly, Maxine stands on her own, thankyouverymuch. "Close As Pages In A Book" - a Maxi-Maxine Cheerful Exclusive! - was her 1970 comeback, her last LP having been recorded in the late 50s. It was worth the wait. At fifty-eight, she was still very much in her prime. Give this one a try (I insist). You'll see, there's something instantly likable and freeing about her vocals, as if she were performing extemporaneously just for you.
The Secret Song File is feeling sassy today, like a Ruskie Mata Hari. Why Ruskie, you ask? Because the lead singer of this celebrated new jazz group has a slinky Ruskie name, and is, in fact, Russian-born. Or so she says (I really hope it's true).
Plus, the Secret Song File always approves when performers revive jammin' jazz tunes from the 1920s, as this group does to wonderful effect. They even perform at a certain club where you need a password to get in - just like a speakeasy, which is kinda cute, kinda silly (but I'll go with it) (for now). What matters is the sound and it's honestly terrif. January blahs be-gone at last!
Feel better now? I knew you would.
Tell me all about it in the comments, if you like!