Anita O'Day & Cal Tjader
Recording Date: Feb 26,28, 1962
In another experiment, producer Creed Taylor teams O'Day with the alternately Latin and bop-grounded quartet of vibraphonist Cal Tjader - and he gets some amazing performances from this team. O'Day sounds as if she is delighted with Tjader's polished Afro-Cuban grooves, gliding easily over the rhythms, toying with the tunes, transforming even a tune so locked into its trite time as "Mr. Sandman" into a stimulating excursion. Indeed, O'Day's freewheeling phrasing becomes downright sexy on "That's Your Red Wagon" and Dave Frishberg's delicious parody of a spoiled honeybunch, "Peel Me a Grape." Also, thanks to Taylor's obsession with good engineering and tasteful applications of reverb, O'Day's voice sounds much fuller and more attractive in his productions than on her Norman Granz-produced albums.
All Music Guide
In 1939, Anita O'Day, clad in pin-stripe suit, and equipped with mannerisms to match, was serving ballads and blues to the patrons of Chicago's Three Deuces. It was the beginning of a career that was to take numerous twists and turns in the two decades to follow.
Today, after 23 years of assorted ups and downs, Anita is much more the creative singer than she was in those early Chicago days. The pin-stripe suit is long discarded; in its place is a wardrobe out of Vogue, with hats and gloves ever present. Less the non-conformist these days than she was during her jamming with the Max Miller period at the Three Deuces, Anita has become the knowing woman, mature enough to disregard eccentricity for its own sake and astute enough to sense the development of the music she loves best. At the age of forty-two, she represents a minority in jazz: the group of knowledgeable veterans who have managed to remain modern, in the best sense of that term, through a horde of innovations and fads from the Swing Era to date. Like Red Norvo (probably the best representative of this genre), Anita is constantly current; her singing is not rigidly rooted in the past (or in her own past with the Gene Krupa band in the early Forties or the Stan Kenton band in the mid-Forties). Rather, she is very much aware of the jazz around her and reflects the changes in it through subtle changes in her own horn-like singing. The Anita who sang "Let Me Off Uptown" with Krupa or "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" with Kenton is not the Anita singing in nightclubs and on records in 1962. She has awakened to countless challenges and in so doing has become one of the few truly adventurous vocalists in the field.
Once she was indebted to Billie Holiday for a string of nuances. Today, only traces of that influence remain. Few of her contemporaries can claim such growth. And among the women singing along jazz lines, few are as genuinely involved with
Improvisation or as perceptive in understanding and expressing lyric content. These virtues are apparent throughout this set, in which she's joined by vibist Cal Tjader's Latin-oriented quartet.
Tjader has been vending Latin sounds for eight years, blending elements of jazz with rhythms from south of the border. Despite this devotion to Latin sounds, the 36year-old Tjader has roots in jazz, making this collaboration with Anita a combination of deftly played jazz on a foundation of pulsating Latin percussion.
His tightly knit group is capable of a wide variety of jazz moods and ready to move (as they will several times during the course of a set) into a frenzy of wildly exciting Latin American rhythms. Although Tjader primarily plays vibes, he does swap chairs with Johnny Rae, allowing the latter to return to the vibes (the instrument he played with the George Shearing Quintet), while Cal returns to the drums, the instrument he has played well in the past with several groups and in which he still is deeply interested.
Tjader is a graduate of San Francisco State College, where he majored in music and education. He studied drums under Walter Larew. In addition to work with Dave Brubeck, Cal was also featured p;[for more than a year with the George Shearing Quintet. His quartet is currently among the most sought-after groups in jazz.
Time for 2 features a host of highlights.
On "Thanks for the Memory", from the Robin-Rainger score for the film Big Broadcast of 1938, Anita sings like a soloing horn over the Latin rhythm section. She communicates the balladic message of "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream" without dragging along at a drearily slow tempo; she manages to lend meaning to the lyrics without the sweet sighing so common in ballad singing these days. She alters the melodic line and toys with the beat on "Just in Time", from the Betty
Comden-Adolph Green-Jule Styne score for the 1956 Broadway show Bells Are Ringing. Going back to 1933 for "Under a Blanket of Blue", she sustains the lovely theme while the Tjader foursome churns rhythmically behind her; it is a ballad but it is not drowned in a sea of glucose. On "That's Your Red Wagon", she chants the melody over a drum background. "Peel Me a Grape", as Anita views it, is the hip wiggling statement of truth of a demanding chick.
"An Occasional Man", a neglected gem from the Hugh Martin-Ralph Blane score for the 1955 film, Girl Rush, finds Anita segmenting the melody into rhythmically determined phrases, a pursuit in which she's aided admirably by the Tjader quartet. She probes the heart of "The Party's Over", also from Bells Are Ringing, but, again, does so without utilizing manic-depressive devices. She's witty and lively on "I Believe in You", but she never turns frantic; it is a splendid example of her use of understatement. She enlivens "Mr. Sandman", a commonplace pop tune previously shrieked by female vocal groups, by applying her special brand of imagination to it. "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year", a strikingly lovely Frank Loesser tune (from the 1944 film Christmas Holiday) becomes a personalized ballad in Anita's hands. On the closing track, "I'm Not Supposed to Be Blue Blues", she brings her jazz skills to bear in creating a characteristically sinewy portrait.
In this album, as in most of her recordings in recent years, Anita projects an artistry and sophistication in the best tradition of jazz. Whatever the context, she manages to apply individuality to the material at hand and, in so doing, enhance its value. She has what few singers can claim: identity. It makes all her dues-paying worthwhile.