Anita O'Day


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The concept of this long-awaited collection -- the first studio recording by the legendary jazz singer in 13 years -- is truly can't-miss, and certain to inspire a sentimental, loving response from her longtime fans and the jazz world in general. The story goes that at the tender age of 80, after recovering from a fall, alcohol-related injuries, and three years of hospitals and rehabs, she asked, "When are we going to make a new record?" Completed on O'Day's 86th birthday, the disc promises a wealth of good things for listeners eager to hear how she's doing these days -- a set of Great American Songbook songs that, with two exceptions ("Them There Eyes," "Is You Is"), she never recorded before and the involvement of legendary performers Joe Wilder (horns) and Eddie Locke (drums), as well as a great ensemble. Sad to say, however, that the self-parodying vibe of "Gimme a Pigfoot" (a tongue-in-cheek view of her former vices and piano players) extends to her well-intentioned but very strained, raspy, and thin vocals throughout. On that song, she obviously talk-sings intentionally, but on the rest of the tracks, from "Blue Skies" to "This Can't Be Love," her limited range simply shows her age as it pales next to the vibrant arrangements around her. It's hard to fault her for her desire to see if she's still got it, and she definitely still knows how to turn on the charm at times. But she's just not up to carrying tunes the way she once did. Her legacy surely won't be diminished, however. And for those who want to see just how good her band is, skip to the one percussive, jazzy instrumental, "My Little Suede Shoes," which shines amid the disappointment.

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