In what must surely be an industry record, the gap separating Anne Phillips’ first and second albums measures 42 years. But, between recording the all-standards set Born to Be Blue in 1959 and delivering a platter of original tunes, Gonna Lay My Heart on the Line, in 2001, the multitalented singer/arranger/producer/composer wasn’t exactly idle. She was a long-standing member of the Ray Charles Singers (no, not that Ray Charles, the other Ray Charles—née Charles Raymond Offenberg—who served as arranger and conductor for The Perry Como Show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and various other TV hits, and scored a syrupy top 10 smash in 1964 with “Love Me With All Your Heart”). She’s provided backup to all sorts of big names (you can hear her behind Lesley Gore on “It’s My Party”), sung all sorts of commercial jingles, maintained a steady string of club dates, and created Jazz Nativity, which has become an annual, yuletide Manhattan institution.
She’s made friends with dozens of jazz greats, and has invited 15 of those pals to partner with her on Ballet Time. Time has been good to Phillips. Her voice, akin to a blend of Dinah Shore and Annie Ross, may not be as buttery as it was in ’59, but remains engaging and robust. The marquee tracks—“In Your Own Sweet Way” with Dave Brubeck; “You Are There” with Dave Frishberg; Peggy Lee’s haunting “In the Days of Our Love” performed with Marian McPartland; “I Never Went Away” with Eddie Monteiro and a vocal duet with Bob Dorough on “I’ve Got Just About Everything”—are all first-class. Even more satisfying, though, are Phillips and Larry Goldings doing her own “Doubletalk,” a wise and witty tune that suggests Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, a charming piano/vocal duet with the young, Michael Feinstein-esque Matt Perri on “I Was Doing All Right” and, done in tandem with pianist Adam Asarnow, the wonderfully nostalgic New York homage “Fried Bananas,” with Phillips’ lyric added to Dexter Gordon’s music.