When Annie Ross penned lyrics to a Wardell Gray blues solo 60 years ago, she had no idea she had created a classic. “Twisted” is a slippery, winding tale she crafted in one night, becoming a cornerstone of the vocalese genre. Readings by Mark Murphy and, notably, Joni Mitchell, have cemented its place in jazz history. The spirited London-born singer/actress has always had a knack for entertainment and performance since age 4, culminating with the iconic ensemble Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.
I caught one of Annie’s shows this summer at her weekly gig at the Metropolitan Room in New York City. Hearing Annie’s set was a lesson in swing timing and phrasing. I was compelled to interview my vocal hero. Thanks to Tardo Hammer, her dutiful pianist, she agreed. What she revealed was fascinating. Her story is rich. Ross’ body of work has had a profound impact on my singing and teaching career. For the past 15 years, “Twisted” has been the first vocalese I teach my students.