Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jazz Jezebel

I first heard Anita O'Day more than 10 years ago in Washington DC and had been a fan since. Not as famous as Ella or Lady Day though Anita finally gets her day from the NYT:

Watching the great jazz singer Anita O’Day croaking “The Nearness of You” in her mid-80s in the final moments of “Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer,” it is impossible to determine whether she is addressing life or death. What seems clear in the interview that makes up the spine of the movie is that near the end of her life, the so-called Jezebel of Jazz, who had been pronounced legally dead after a heroin overdose in the late 1960s, had few regrets. The portrait that emerges in this documentary, directed by her former manager Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden, is of a woman who always lived by her own rules. Her total disregard for convention applied as much to singing as to a spectacularly messy life that included several marriages, drug arrests and a heroin addiction lasting more than 15 years. Ms. O’Day, who died two years ago at 87, invented a cool, dry jazz singing style that influenced many, most notably June Christy and Chris Connor. It was all about rhythm, improvisation and hip attitude. What repeatedly comes to mind when people invoke Ms. O’Day is her feral, instinctive drive for freedom, both artistic and personal. — Stephen Holden, The New York Times


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