The most remarkable thing about Nightlife is that it is not noticeably remarkable. Recorded over three sessions at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola that bridged Ernestine Anderson’s 80th birthday, it simply serves as testament that the lady has lost none of her sass, wit or verve.
Nor has her ability to straddle the border of blues and jazz diminished one iota. Sure, she leaves some of the heavy-lifting to her bandmates, but she has judiciously selected players who can effortlessly field whatever is tossed their way. (Saxophonist Houston Person and pianist Lafayette Harris Jr. perform on all three dates, with Chip Jackson and Lonnie Plaxico alternating on bass and Willie Jones III and Jerome Jennings trading off on drums.)
Among the eight tracks there are few surprises. Anderson’s exceptional approaches to “I Love Being Here With You,” “All Blues,” “Goin’ to Chicago Blues,” “Only Trust Your Heart” and her sly signature, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon,” have been pillars of her repertoire for years. The least familiar selection on the album is the title tune. Written in 1962 by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams for the marginal Broadway success All American, it was originally performed by Anita Gillette. But not the way Anderson does it. Mellow and mysterious and promising sweet musical pleasure, it is as ideally suited to her as “Here’s to Life” was to Shirley Horn.