Friday, December 01, 2006

Anita O'Day On A Summer's Day

A brief hats off to the great Anita O'Day who passed away this past Thanksgiving morning at age 87.

Over and over I've been watching her set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival as captured by film-maker photographer Bert Stern in Jazz On A Summer's Day.

I can't recall when I've ever derived so much from a performance of two songs.

Anita displays all so eloquently what jazz, not just jazz-singing, is all about here.
Of course her oddly hip attire and demeanor are an exclamation mark on a stage littered with a day-long parade of, sometimes elegant, sometimes "another day at the office" jazz-suits - but the baraka she gradually transmits to the listener comes from her vocal phrasing. Not blessed with an incredible vocal range or stamina, Anita's power lies in knowing what it is to dance and play with the beat by phrase placement; off the beat, on the beat, balanced but without symmetry, pushing, pulling, and cajoling it until it SWINGS!

...and this all with complete nonchalance - as if it was just happening of itself, which it is. This the outcome of a natural sense and 20-some years of long nights performing together with some of the great improvisers.

*youtube has a clip from the movie with Anita doing Sweet Georgia Brown and also Tea for Two.
There are also clips on the website which are very clear visually although shorter in length.
Thanks to Sharon for informing that Anita had died and also turning me on the NPR broadcast of Terri Gross' interview with Anita..


Anonymous said...

that is a damn good performance of Sweet Georgia Brown.

I see what you mean about how she maximizes her range through the use of phrasing.

Speaking of minimalist approaches, here is the wikipedia entry on the diddley-bow. Also you can find an album called One String Blues on Amazon. I still can't find the album that was in the Vegas library that turned me on to One String but I sure wish I had a copy of the one where his momma tells him not to play that devil music in the house!

---matthew 'aint got no chords' camp

The diddley bow is an American string instrument of African origin. It is typically homemade, consisting usually of a wooden board and a single wire string stretched between two screws, and played by plucking while varying the pitch with a metal or glass slide held in the other hand.

The diddley bow is significant to blues music in that many blues guitarists got their start playing it as children, as well as the fact that, like the slide guitar, it is played with a slide.

A notable performer of the instrument was the Mississippi blues musician Lonnie Pitchford, who used to demonstrate the instrument by stretching a wire between two nails hammered into the wood of a vertical beam making up part of the front porch of his home. Another performer who uses the instrument extensively is the New York City-based jazz pianist Cooper-Moore.

Anonymous said...

what gives, dude?'s been three weeks...dry spell...writer's block? have enough esoteric trivia to regurgitate for eons and then some...
you certainly aren't out there christmas shopping...or are you finally joining the happy masses?

Anonymous said...

...thanks for caring!
yeah, there's plenty of 'gurgitative tidbits poised on the edge - just need a sleepless night or over-early morning...