Saturday, September 26, 2015

Etta Jones Sings Lady Day

Etta Jones
Sings Lady Day
High Note HCD 7078

That Ole Devil Called Love/ All of Me/ But Beautiful/ You’ve Changed/ I Cried For you/ Fine and Mellow/ God Bless the Child/ Them There Eyes/ You Better Go Now.

Jones, vcl; Houston Person, ts; Richard Wyands, p; Peter Bernstein, g; John Webber, b; Chip White, d. New York, NY, June 21, 2001.

The release of "Sings Lady Day" occurred almost simultaneously with Etta Jones’ passing. It is obviously a tribute to Billie Holiday and succeeds not simply as such, but also a reminder of just how marvelous Ms. Jones herself was for all these years. The liner notes observe Jones’ stylistic debt to Holiday but asserts she was not an imitator. Still, there are times when listening to this that I almost felt that I was hearing Holiday more in the tone of Jones’ voice than her phrasing. There is short segment in “Fine and Mellow“ where she briefly shows us “Ms Billie Holiday did it a little bit like this” and does a brief vocal impersonation.

There is a nice choice of material ranging from a numbers most identified associated with Holiday, “God Bless the Child” and “Fine and Mellow,” along with standards such as “All of Me,” and “Then There Eyes.” The supporting band led by her long-time musical collaborator Houston Person is superb. Person’s tenor solo is a highlight on “All of Me,” and his solo on “Fine and Mellow,” is a marvelous example of Person’s deep blues roots. Both pianist Wyands and guitarist Bernstein are prominent on the performance of the ballad, “But Beautiful,” with Jones’ expressiveness here rivaling that of Holiday. Everything about this recording is exquisite.

This review was written for Cadence Magazine in early 2002 as part of a review that included the review of Houston Person's "Blue Velvet" that I posted this past Wednesday. Given that this is the centenary of Billie Holiday, this wonderful tribute from some years back should not be overlooked and stands along the wonderful recent Cassandra Wilson and Jose James tributes. It is still in print I believe and available as downloads. I likely received my review copy from Cadence. Here is Etta Jones in performance.


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