The Jazz Stylings of Anita O'Day
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The expression “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” can be boiled down to its essence in one word: resiliency. It is often the case that people with specific disabilities learn to get around their handicap by developing other talents, and in the process create a style that is unique. This is as true in music as in any other walk of life. Just as guitarist Django Reinhardt created a highly individual style after losing two fingers from his left hand, so did the legendary vocalist Anita O’Day (1919-2006) overcome the accidental removal of her uvula (the fleshy part of the soft palate which hangs over the back of the tongue) to become one of the finest exponents of the vocal jazz genre and one of its truly original song stylists. Unable to sustain notes or use vibrato, O’Day used her clean sound to great effect and developed a fast staccato style based more on eighth and sixteenth notes than quarter notes. She also had excellent intonation, a strong understanding of harmony, a great rhythmic sense and an irrepressible swing style. Her superlative skills as an improviser made her one of the great vocal champions of the bebop movement during the late-forties and fifties. Anita’s discography contains a total of 187 separate studio sessions or live recordings between 1941 and 2005, of which, 89 were released under her own name. While the singer gained fame with the likes of Gene Krupa, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and Benny Goodman, her 17 albums recorded between 1952 and 1962 for Norman Granz’s Clef and Verve labels are what secured her place as one of the great divas of jazz. This LP comprises some of her very best recordings from that period.