On My Buddy: Songs of Buddy Johnson, Etta Jones pays tribute to the man who got her started back in 1944. She sings songs originally done by Ella Johnson (Buddy's sister, whom she subbed for) and Arthur Prysock, in her typical soulful, clear, sweet, high-pitched voice. Legendary piano accompanist Norman Simmons is here doing his yeoman's work, with young bassist John Webber and reliable drummer Kenny Washington providing support. Longtime partner, tenor saxophonist Houston Person, tends to lay out in most of the ten cuts until the latter part of these classic melodies.
The Prysock tunes include mostly ballads as "They All Say I'm the Biggest Fool" and "Save All Your Love for Me." Jones changes up a bit, playing with the lyric on the easy blues swing of "Let's Beat Out Some Love" and pines, not croons (as would Prysock) for the tenor-led slow tune "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone." The Ella Johnson tunes include a personal favorite of Jones, the WWII-era "When My Man Comes Home" -- a good swinger that shows its timelessness. "Hittin' on Me" is a down-home blues cut that has a defiant, rollicking forward motion that suggests escape, and a fine closer to the set.
It is clear that this project was important to Etta Jones for personal and historical reasons. It should be just as vital to the jazz and blues community as a whole to not only hear the music of the oft-neglected Buddy Johnson, but to revel in the song stylings of a great vocal treasure. [This highly recommended CD is also a 1998 Grammy nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Performance.]