June 2006

Anita O'Day

If ever forced to commit to a list of my 10 favorite vocal albums, I can guarantee Anita O’Day discs would fill at least three of the slots, with Time for 2, her flawless 1962 outing with Cal Tjader, outpacing all others. As the title of one of her uniformly brilliant Verve platters so boastfully but accurately put it, she was, in her day, incomparable.

But that O’Day has passed. Considering what she’s put herself through physically and emotionally (all documented in her pull-no-punches autobiography High Times, Hard Times) over the past 8½ decades, it’s remarkable O’Day is still breathing, let alone singing. The gal must have steel-lined innards. Sadly, her pipes ain’t copper. After so many years of abuse, her sterling vocal prowess has traveled well past rusty to utterly disintegrated.

Great tunes, great arrangements and great players (ace trumpeter Joe Wilder among them) notwithstanding, the 10 vocal tracks included here, all recorded between O’Day’s 84th and 86th birthdays, serve as not only a painful but sad and unnecessary coda to one of the most electric careers in all of jazz history. Even the most ardent fans will find it tough to add this travesty to their O’Day library.

Originally published in June 2006

1 Comment

  • Mar 19, 2011 at 10:03AM ghorra23

    I think I should point out some inaccuracies in some of the assumptions you've made about her vocal condition on the album; easily made of course because she did use heroin for many years. But the truth of the matter says more about the health service in America than her junky lifestyle.

    Her voice wasn't in the shape it was in because of years of abuse - in the documentary "ANITA O'DAY–THE LIFE OF A JAZZ SINGER"( available here:
    she explains that her voice was damaged through medical malpractice while she was in hospital for a broken arm.

    Basically, while in hospital she developed pneumonia and they left some kind of gas apparatus on her face for 30 minutes instead of the standard 8 minutes and burned her vocal chords.

    So if you find her voice on this album 'sad' then please understand the true sadness behind the fact that she had her voice destroyed by medical incompetence rather than by hedonism.

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