Friday, April 1, 2011

Life of a Jazz Singer


The most important concert film ever made (exempting the original Woodstock) was a 1960 release called Jazz on a Summer’s Day. Of course, at the time I couldn’t have cared less (I was six). But as I have grown older, I’ve begun to appreciate the process of “WHY”; how things became as they are. Perhaps the fifty year mark turns people away from reading fiction, and more toward history and biographies. I don’t know, but I have realized the past, is just as important as the present. I comb through Netflix for documentaries, on any subject. Jazz on a Summer’s Day is a vitally important work, yet I saw it for the first time only four months ago. More on that film in later posts, but today, I want to talk about one performance, one artist, who took my breath away as I watched.

Anita O’Day (October 18, 1919 – November 23, 2006) was one of the finest Jazz singers ever. Her sense of rhythm and dynamics was incomparable. And her voice was, quite simply, sexy as Hell. Her short set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival documented in Jazz on a Summer’s Day, has turned her into an obsession with me. There is no doubt her Sunday afternoon performance was the finest of the whole festival. Which is why I urge every to go to your Netflix account right now, and order Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer.

The documentary, released in 2007, was produced and directed by Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden. It is fantastic. It chronicles her life without passing judgement. But most of all, it lets you see performances you will never see anywhere else. She was true to the Hard Swing Styles of the Big Bands, but her rhythmic and dynamic improvisational skills puts her right up there with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian and other Be Bop legends. You must see this documentary to believe it. Aside from the performances, the film also explores the dark side of her life, in her own words. No excuses.

You must see Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer. It won’t change your life, but you will learn to appreciate music differently.

Q: Where can men over the age of 50 find younger women who are interested in them? A: Try a bookstore under fiction.