Anita O’Day and The Three Sounds
A Great Jazz Singer Combines Talents With A Swinging Jazz Trio!
GENE HARRIS piano
BILL DOWDY drums
ANDREW SIMPKINS bass
WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG
SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME (Instrumental)
ALL TOO SOON
MY HEART STOOD STILL (Instrumental)
LEAVE IT TO ME (Instrumental)
‘WHISPER NOT (Trumpet Solo: ROY ELDRIDGE)
BLUES BY FIVE (Instrumental)
(Fly Me To The Moon) IN OTHER WORDS
YOU AND THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC
Cover photo: Robert Parent
Director of Engineering:, Val Valentin
Produced by Creed Taylor
For more than twenty years, Anita, O’Day has been winning friends and influencing people. Along with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mildred Bailey and Sarah Vaughan, she is solidly established as one of the most original and compelling jazz singers of the modern era. And her vocal style has provided the curriculum for a school of singing whose graduates include June Christy and Chris Connor.
Anita was born Anita Colton, December 18, 1919 in, Chicago. (“I took the name O’Day because it was pig latin for dough, and I wanted to make some.”) In 1939, after a break-in period of singing in neighborhood taverns and at walkathons, she joined pianist-vibist Max Miller’s group at the Three Deuces. Listening to the top jazzmen who worked at the Deuces helped to develop the hornlike qualities of phrasing, scatting and bending of notes and beat that were to become her trademark. While soaking up these instrumental mannerisms, she also made it her business to hear everything she could by Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
Early in 1941, she replaced Irene Day in Gene Krupa’s band. Almost immediately, the “musician’s singer” exploded with a string of best-selling records including Let Me Off Uptown (co-featuring trumpeter Roy Eldridge) and That’s What You Think. Along with the hits, Anita was making history of a sort. “For a change,” wrote Bill Simon for The American Recording Society, “a girl singer, instead of serving mainly as decoration, was able to give the entire band the same sort of ‘lift’ it might get from an ace, electrically- charged instrumentalist. She had that ‘hip’, husky sound and that eternally happy feeling.”
Late in 1942, she left the Krupa band to get married and, it was reported, to retire from the music business-. By June of the following year, she was back working as a single and rumored to be joining Teddy Powell or Woody Herman. But except for a brief engagement with Woody at the Palladium, she continued with her solo act until 1944, when she replaced Dolly Michell with Stan’ Kenton. That year, she recorded the hit And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine and won the Down Beat Poll. In 1945, she re-joined Krupa long enough to jolt the nation’s juke boxes with Opus 1 and repeat her Down. Beat victory. The following year, she left to work as a single and has been performing as such ever since.
In the late ’50s, after several years of “retirements”, Anita started a comeback that is still gaining momentum. In 1958, she stood Newport on its festive ear. A year later, she toured Europe with Benny Goodman and appeared on the screen in The Gene Krupa Story. She is appearing again in the best jazz rooms. And her recent Verve albums offer captivating proof that she is singing more warmly, more wonderfully and maybe a bit more wisely than ever.
To these ears, Anita has always sounded her most natural and relaxed when singing with a good small group. For this album, she is in the choice company of one of the tastiest, most consistently swinging trios anywhere.
The Three Sounds-pianist Gene Harris, bassist Andrew Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy-were formed in South Bend in 1956. After backing Lester Young, Al Hibbler, Sonny Stitt and others on jobs in the Ohio area, they played for several months in Washington, D. C. at the Spotlight and Hollywood clubs. The enthusiastic endorsements of musicians who heard or played with the group in Washington, including Lou Donaldson and Nat Adderly, paved the way to engagements in New York. Recordings and club appearances have since brought the Sounds
to the attention of a grateful national audience of jazz fans who prefer music to “messages”, straight-ahead swing to murky obscurity.
Gene Harris, born September 1, 1933 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, began playing piano at the age of nine. He had no’ formal musical training until he learned to read music with the 82nd Airborne Division Army Band. Following his military discharge, he toured the south and Midwest with bands led by Benny Stevenson, Curtis Johnson and Benny Poole.
Andrew Simpkins, born April 29, 1932 in Richmond, Indiana, played clarinet and piano through high school and two years at Wilberforce University. Prior to being called up for military service, he became interested in playing bass and studied it tirelessly while in the army. Before joining the Sounds, he-worked with several combos in the Midwest.
Bill Dowdy, born August 15, 1933 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, did club and radio work before the service beckoned. Afterward, he played around Chicago with blues groups and house rhythm sections in back of traveling soloists such as J. J. Johnson and Johnny Griffin.
When the World Was Young is a challenge to the best-equipped singer. The attractiveness of M. Philippe Gerard’s melody, a series of in-tempo choruses preceded by out-of-tempo verses, hinges on several lovely but treacherous interval skips. Johnny Mercer’s “flashback” lyrics teeter prettily but precariously between world-weary sophistication (“Handsome young men-and some of them mine”) and child-like simplicity (“Games we used to play, while the rounds were sung”). It is a tribute to Anita’s sure musicianship, feeling for lyrics and deft dramatic sense that she brings the song’s varied elements into a genuinely affecting focus.
Someday My Prince Will Come, written by Frank Churchill for Wait Disney’s Snow White (1938), has been recorded by jazzmen of assorted styles and persuasions, Miles Davis to Bill Evans to Dave Brubeck. As played here by the ebullient Three Sounds, it becomes an easy-swinging adventure in polyrhythmic funk and fun. After stating the melody with some delicacy, the boys charge a string of bluesy variations with a tension that is finally and neatly resolved by a return to the opening statement.
A “walkin’ ” intro by the Sounds ushers ‘ in Duke Ellington’s All Too Soon and Anita in a bittersweet mood. She swings gently through the first chorus (note her Holiday-like inflection when she sings “And as I reached the heights” in the release), then Harris follows with sixteen bars that sustain the dug-in groove. Anita returns to make an effort less change of key and some slight but very effective changes in the lyrics.
Their romping version of Rodgers and Hart’s My Heart Stood Still (from A Connecticut Yankee, 1927) reflects the nearly incestuous musical “togetherness” of the Sounds. Harris follows the opening chorus with a slippery break and two choruses of fleet and facile invention while Simpkins and Dowdy lay down a beat you could walk on. After two choruses of four-bar exchanges between Harris and Dowdy, the boys reprise the opening routine (except for the release, here in the capable hands of drummer Dowdy).
My Ship was introduced in Lady in the Dark (1941), the first musical with psychoanalysis as a central theme. The haunting melody by Kurt Weill and the dream-like lyrics by Ira Gershwin (on his first Broadway assignment after his brother’s death) served the show as a vehicle for returning the heroine (played in the original production by Gertrude Lawrence) to her childhood during analysis. Anita sings it with affection and without affectation, capturing all its overtones of the elusive charm and fragile simplicity of long-ago dreams and fantasies.
Leave It To Me, a rollicking 12-bar ‘blues by Donn Trenner, has been used as the station-break theme on the Steve Allen Show. It is programmed in the Sounds’ exacting but always exciting theme to-variations-back-to-theme format. The variations are highlighted by some neatly conceived and executed after-you-Gaston spots by Harris and Dowdy and Simpkins’ usual powerful and always purposeful bass lines. Harris has stated that his favorite pianists are Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner. It is obvious here that he has also listened with more than casual interest to Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Ahmad Jamal and Hank Jones.
Benny Golson’s Whisper Not has been widely played and recorded by modern jazzmen. Anita sings the lyrics by’ Leonard Feather in the lazy swinging groove in which she has always operated so effectively, but with the marvelous control and confidence she seems to have polished to perfection in recent years. Harris makes the most of the eight bars allotted him, punctuating his story with clipped octave tremolos. And the heated muted trumpet heard in eight solo bars and behind Anita on the closing sixteen is by her old Krupa compatriot, Roy Eldridge.
Budd Johnson’s Blues by Five gives the Sounds another finger-snapping crack at their first musical love. In his notes for an album by the Sounds on another label, Leonard Feather made special note of their deep involvement with the blues. “Perhaps that’s one of the secrets of the Three Sounds’ success”, he wrote. “It is the spirit of the blues-which, in essence, is the spirit of jazz itself-that has helped to weld the trio into one of the best-integrated units of its kind in’ jazz today.”
Bart Howard’s Fly Me to the Moon has attracted the attention of a wide variety of performers Paul Anka to Frank Sinatra, George Shearing to Joe Harnell. Like practically everything she sings, Anita makes it sound as though you’re hearing it for the very first time. After floating sweetly but slyly through the first chorus in three-quarter time, she swerves sharply into four, laying down a bedrock beat by singing each word smack dab on top of each beat. After twenty-four down-home bars by Harris, she sails in and out on the final eight bars.
You and the Night and the Music, the Howard Dietz-Arthur Schwartz standard from Revenge with Music (1934) swings from start to finish. Anita’s opening chorus demands and gets an infectious beat; Harris reciprocates in kind, then Anita with her remarkable sense of time-completely re-phrases the lyrics. A clue to her complete relaxation on this track is the unusual little slice of scat with which she slips out of the last release into the last eight bars.
There is nobody quite like Anita O’Day. She has a sound, a style and a conception as personal asa fingerprint. Her choice of tunes and her inter-pretation of lyrics are tastefu-1 and knowing. Un-like many of her contemporaries, she succeeds in the business of singing ballads without really cry-ing. And she can swing with heart, heat and hu-mor. Enhanced by the sensitive and inspiring work of the gifted Three Sounds, it’s all here on the record.