Anita O'Day

Last updated
Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day.jpg
O'Day in 2005
Background information
Birth nameAnita Belle Colton
Also known as"The Jezebel of Jazz"
Born(1919-10-18)October 18, 1919
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
DiedNovember 23, 2006(2006-11-23) (aged 87)
Los Angeles, California
Genres
Occupation(s)Singer
Years active1934–2006
Labels
  • Verve
  • Emily Productions
  • Kayo Stereophonic

Anita O'Day (born Anita Belle Colton; October 18, 1919 – November 23, 2006) was an American jazz singer widely admired for her sense of rhythm and dynamics, and her early big band appearances that shattered the traditional image of the "girl singer". Refusing to pander to any female stereotype, O'Day presented herself as a "hip" jazz musician, wearing a band jacket and skirt as opposed to an evening gown. She changed her surname from Colton to O'Day, pig Latin for "dough", slang for money. [1]

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Rhythm aspect of music

Rhythm generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions". This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds ; to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.

Big band music ensemble associated with jazz and Swing Era music

A big band is a type of musical ensemble that usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section. Big bands originated during the early 1910s and dominated jazz in the early 1940s when swing was most popular. The term "big band" is also used to describe a genre of music. One problem with this usage is that it overlooks the variety of music played by these bands.

Contents

Style

O'Day, along with Mel Tormé, is often grouped with the West Coast cool school of jazz. Like Tormé, O'Day had some training in jazz drums (courtesy of her first husband Don Carter); her longest musical collaboration was with jazz drummer John Poole. While maintaining a central core of hard swing, O'Day's skills in improvisation of rhythm and melody ranks among the pioneers of bebop.

Mel Tormé American recording artist, singer, songwriter, actor, writer, music arranger

Melvin Howard Tormé, best known as Mel Tormé and nicknamed The Velvet Fog, was an American musician, a singer of jazz standards. He was also a jazz composer and arranger, drummer, an actor in radio, film, and television, and the author of five books. He composed the music for "The Christmas Song" and co-wrote the lyrics with Bob Wells.

West Coast jazz refers to styles of jazz that developed in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the 1950s. West Coast jazz is often seen as a subgenre of cool jazz, which consisted of a calmer style than bebop or hard bop. The music relied relatively more on composition and arrangement than on the individually improvised playing of other jazz styles. Although this style dominated, it wasn't the only form of jazz heard on the American West Coast.

Swing music, or simply swing, is a form of popular music developed in the United States that dominated in the 1930s and 1940s. The name swing came from the 'swing feel' where the emphasis is on the off–beat or weaker pulse in the music. Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of big bands and bandleaders such as Benny Goodman was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1946, a period known as the swing era. The verb "to swing" is also used as a term of praise for playing that has a strong groove or drive. Notable musicians of the swing era include Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Harry James, Louis Jordan, and Cab Calloway.

She cited Martha Raye as the primary influence on her vocal style, also expressing admiration for Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. She always maintained that the accidental excision of her uvula during a childhood tonsillectomy left her incapable of vibrato, and unable to maintain long phrases. That botched operation, she claimed, forced her to develop a more percussive style based on short notes and rhythmic drive. However, when she was in good voice she could stretch long notes with strong crescendos and a telescoping vibrato, e.g. her live version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, captured in Bert Stern's film Jazz on a Summer's Day . [2]

Martha Raye American comic actress and singer

Martha Raye was an American comic actress and singer who performed in movies, and later on television. She also acted in plays, including Broadway. She was honored in 1969 at the Academy Awards as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient for her volunteer efforts and services to the troops.

Mildred Bailey American jazz singer

Mildred Bailey was a Native American jazz singer during the 1930s, known as "The Queen of Swing", "The Rockin' Chair Lady" and "Mrs. Swing". Some of her best-known hits are "It's So Peaceful in the Country", "Trust in Me", "Where Are You?", "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart", "Small Fry", "Please Be Kind", "Darn That Dream", "Rockin' Chair", "Blame It on My Last Affair", and "Says My Heart". She had three singles that made number one on the popular charts.

Ella Fitzgerald American jazz singer

Ella Jane Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

Early career

Anita Belle Colton (who later took the surname "O'Day") was born to Irish parents, James and Gladys M. (née Gill) Colton in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in Chicago, Illinois during the Great Depression. [3] Colton took the first chance to leave her unhappy home when, at age 14, she became a contestant in the popular Walk-a-thons as a dancer. She toured with the Walk-a-thons circuits for two years, occasionally being called upon to sing. In 1934, she began touring the Midwest as a marathon dance contestant. [4]

Kansas City, Missouri City in western Missouri

Kansas City is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city had an estimated population of 488,943 in 2017, making it the 37th most-populous city in the United States. It is the central city of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles the Kansas–Missouri state line. Kansas City was founded in the 1830s as a Missouri River port at its confluence with the Kansas River coming in from the west. On June 1, 1850 the town of Kansas was incorporated; shortly after came the establishment of the Kansas Territory. Confusion between the two ensued and the name Kansas City was assigned to distinguish them soon after.

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

Dance marathon

Dance marathons are events in which people dance or walk to music for an extended period of time. They started as dance contests in the 1920s and developed into entertainment events during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Before the development of "reality shows", dance marathons blurred the line between theatre and reality. Also known as endurance contests, dance marathons attracted people to compete as a way to achieve fame or win monetary prizes. The 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, based on the 1935 novel of the same title written by Horace McCoy, a bouncer at several such marathons, popularized the idea and prompted students at Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, Indiana University, Ohio State University, the University of Florida, the University of Iowa, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to create charity dance marathons. Marathons could last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks.

In 1936, she left the endurance contests, determined to become a professional singer. She started out as a chorus girl in such Uptown venues as the Celebrity Club and the Vanity Fair, then found work as a singer and waitress at the Ball of Fire, the Vialago, and the Planet Mars. At the Vialago, O'Day met the drummer Don Carter, who introduced her to music theory; they wed in 1937. Her first big break came in 1938 when Down Beat editor Carl Cons hired her to work at his new club at 222 North State Street, the Off-Beat, which became a popular hangout for musicians. Also performing at the Off-Beat was the Max Miller Quartet, which backed O'Day for the first ten days of her stay there. While performing at the Off Beat, she met Gene Krupa, who promised to call her if Irene Daye, then his vocalist, ever left his band, and in 1939, O'Day was hired as vocalist for Miller's Quartet, which had a stay at the Three Deuces club in Chicago. [5]

Uptown, Chicago Community area in Illinois, United States

Uptown is one of Chicago, Illinois’ 77 community areas. Uptown's boundaries are Foster Avenue on the north; Lake Michigan on the east; Montrose, and Irving Park on the south; Ravenswood, and Clark on the west. To the north is Edgewater, to the west is Lincoln Square, and to the south is Lake View.

State Street (Chicago) street in Chicago, Illinois

State Street is a large south-north street in Chicago, Illinois, USA and its south suburbs. It begins at North Avenue, the south end of Lincoln Park, runs south through the heart of Downtown Chicago, and ends at the southern city limits, intersecting 127th Street along the bank of the Little Calumet River. It resumes north of 137th Street in Riverdale and runs south intermittently through Chicago's south suburbs until terminating at New Monee Road in Crete, Illinois. Its intersection with Madison Street has marked the base point for Chicago's address system since 1909.

Max Miller (jazz musician) American musician

Edward Maxwell "Max" Miller was an American jazz pianist and vibraphone player. He had a forty year career that peaked in the 1940s and '50s. Many of his compositions use extended chord harmonies, polyphony, and polytonality and were influenced by Stravinsky, Bartók, and Hindemith.

Work with Krupa, Herman, and Kenton

The call from Krupa came in early 1941. Of the 34 sides she recorded with Krupa, it was "Let Me Off Uptown", a novelty duet with Roy Eldridge, that became her first big hit. That same year, Down Beat named O'Day "New Star of the Year". In 1942 she appeared with the Krupa band in two "soundies" (short musical films originally made for jukeboxes), singing "Thanks for the Boogie Ride" and "Let Me Off Uptown". The same year Down Beat magazine readers voted her into the top five big band singers. O'Day came in fourth, with Helen O'Connell first, Helen Forrest second, Billie Holiday third, and Dinah Shore fifth. O'Day married golf pro and jazz fan Carl Hoff in 1942.

Roy Eldridge American trumpeter

David Roy Eldridge, nicknamed "Little Jazz", was an American jazz trumpet player. His sophisticated use of harmony, including the use of tritone substitutions, his virtuosic solos exhibiting a departure from the dominant style of jazz trumpet innovator Louis Armstrong, and his strong impact on Dizzy Gillespie mark him as one of the most influential musicians of the swing era and a precursor of bebop.

Soundies were three-minute American musical 16mm films, produced in New York City, Chicago, and Hollywood, between 1940 and 1946, each containing a song, dance and/or band or orchestral number.

Helen OConnell American actress and singer

Helen O'Connell was an American singer, actress, and hostess, sometimes described as "the quintessential big band singer of the 1940s".

When Krupa's band broke up after he was arrested in 1943, O'Day joined Woody Herman for a month-long gig at the Hollywood Palladium, followed by two weeks at the Orpheum. Unwilling to tour with another big band, she left Herman after the Orpheum engagement and finished out the year as a solo artist. Despite her initial misgivings about the compatibility of their musical styles, she joined Stan Kenton's band in April 1944. During her 11 months with Kenton, O'Day recorded 21 sides, both transcription and commercial, and appeared in a Universal Pictures short Artistry in Rhythm (1944). And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine (1944) became a huge seller and put Kenton's band on the map. She also appeared in one soundie with Kenton, performing "I'm Going Mad for a Pad" and "Tabby the Cat". O'Day later said, "My time with Stanley helped nurture and cultivate my innate sense of chord structure." In 1945 she rejoined Krupa's band and stayed almost a year. The reunion yielded only 10 sides. After leaving Krupa late in 1946, O'Day once again became a solo artist. [6]

Post-war work and drug arrests

During the late 1940s, O'Day was trying to achieve popular success without sacrificing her identity as a jazz singer. During this period she recorded two dozen sides, mostly for small labels. Among the more notable recordings from this time are "Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip", "Key Largo", "How High the Moon", and "Malaguena". While living with husband Carl Hoff in Los Angeles and in March 1947, two undercover policemen came to their home during a party at which Dizzy Gillespie was playing from the branches of a tree in their front yard. They found a small bag of marijuana, for which Anita and Carl were arrested. On August 11 Judge Harold B. Landreth found them guilty and handed down ninety-day sentences.

After her jail stint, O'Day performed with Woody Herman's Herd and the Stan Kenton Artistry In Rhythm Orchestra. Her career was back on the upswing in September 1948 when she sang with Count Basie at the Royal Roost in New York City, resulting in five airchecks. What secured O'Day's place in the jazz pantheon, however, were the 17 albums she recorded for Norman Granz's Norgran and Verve labels between 1952 and 1962.

Her first album Anita O'Day Sings Jazz (reissued as The Lady Is a Tramp) was recorded in 1952 for the newly established Norgran Records (it was also the label's first LP). The album was a critical success and further boosted her popularity. In February 1953, O'Day was in court again for a marijuana charge, this time for smoking a joint while riding in a car. The case was dismissed by a jury for lack of evidence, but while awaiting her trial O'Day was introduced to sniffing heroin by a character named Harry the Hipster. She'd switched to booze instead of pot after her second bust, and her first thought on feeling the heroin rush was, "Oh good, now I don't have to drink." Within a month, she was framed for a heroin bust and facing six years. Soon after her release from jail on February 25, 1954, she began work on her second album, Songs by Anita O'Day (reissued as An Evening with Anita O'Day). She recorded steadily throughout the 1950s, accompanied by small combos and big bands. In person, O'Day was generally backed by a trio which included John Poole, the drummer with whom she would work for the next 40 years. [7]

As a live performer O'Day also began performing in festivals and concerts with such musicians as Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Dinah Washington, George Shearing, Cal Tjader and Thelonious Monk. She appeared in the documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day , filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which increased her popularity. She admitted later that she was probably high on heroin during the concert. [8] She also said that it was the best day of her life in that hers was the star performance of the festival and she made the cover of national magazines for it.

The following year, O'Day made a cameo appearance in The Gene Krupa Story , singing "Memories of You". Late in 1959, she toured Europe with Benny Goodman to great personal acclaim. O'Day wrote in her 1981 autobiography that when Goodman's attempts to upstage her failed to diminish the audience's enthusiasm, he cut all but two of her numbers from the show.

O'Day went back to touring as a solo artist and appeared on such TV specials as the Timex All-Star Jazz Show and The Swingin' Years hosted by Ronald Reagan. She recorded infrequently after the expiration of her Verve contract in 1962 and her career seemed over when she nearly died of a heroin overdose in 1968. During this time her working trio included Chicagoan George Finley on drums, father of noted performance artist Karen Finley. After kicking the habit, she made a comeback at the 1970 Berlin Jazz Festival. She also appeared in the films Zig Zag a.k.a. False Witness with George Kennedy (1970) and The Outfit (1974) with Robert Duvall. She resumed making live and studio albums under the new management of Alan Eichler, many recorded in Japan, and several were released on Emily Records, owned by Anita O'Day and John Poole. Since then, Emily Records has changed its name to Emily Productions, now owned by Elaine Poole, and they are currently restoring Anita's live and studio archives from before, during, and after the Emily years under the Emily Productions label. Jonathan Poole trained for audio engineering under John Jacobson (Casino-Scorsese, Imagine Dragons) to remaster previously unusable content due to a host of imperfections that can now be corrected with today's technology. [9]

Memoir and later life

In November 1980 she was a headliner along with Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton and Ramsey Lewis during the opening two-week ceremony performances celebrating the short-lived resurgence of the Blue Note Lounge at the Marriott O'Hare Hotel near Chicago.

O'Day spoke candidly about her drug addiction in her 1981 memoir High Times, Hard Times, which led to a string of TV appearances on 60 Minutes , The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson , The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, The Dick Cavett Show , Over Easy with Hugh Downs, The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, and several others. She toured Europe, and also performed a 50th Anniversary Concert (1985) at Carnegie Hall which resulted in the (2010) release of Anita O'Day – Big Band at Carnegie Hall (Emily Productions). O'Day also headlined New York's JVC Jazz Festival.

Following a life-threatening accident at the end of 1996, she made a miraculous comeback in 1999, resuming her career with the help of longtime manager Alan Eichler. [10] In 2005, her version of the standard "Sing, Sing, Sing" was remixed by RSL and was included in the compilation album Verve Remixed 3 . The following year, she released Indestructible! , her first album in 13 years.

One of her best-known late-career audio performances is "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby", which opens the film Shortbus (2006) by John Cameron Mitchell.

A feature-length documentary, Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer , directed by Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 30, 2007. [8] [11]

In November 2006, Robbie Cavolina (her last manager) entered her into a West Hollywood convalescent hospital while she recovered from pneumonia. Two days before her death, she had demanded to be released from the hospital. On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006, at age 87, O'Day died in her sleep. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest.

Discography

Filmography

Features

Documentaries

Related Research Articles

Gene Krupa drummer, composer, bandleader

Eugene Bertram Krupa was an American jazz drummer, band leader, actor, and composer known for his energetic style and showmanship. His drum solo on "Sing, Sing, Sing" (1937) elevated the role of the drummer as a frequently used solo voice in the band.

Kai Winding Danish-born American jazz musician and trombonist

Kai Chresten Winding was a Danish-born American trombonist and jazz composer. He is known for his collaborations with trombonist J. J. Johnson.

Gerry Mulligan American jazz baritone saxophonist, arranger and composer

Gerald Joseph Mulligan was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger. Though Mulligan is primarily known as one of the leading jazz baritone saxophonists – playing the instrument with a light and airy tone in the era of cool jazz – he was also a significant arranger, working with Claude Thornhill, Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, and others. Mulligan's pianoless quartet of the early 1950s with trumpeter Chet Baker is still regarded as one of the best cool jazz groups. Mulligan was also a skilled pianist and played several other reed instruments. Several of his compositions, such as "Walkin' Shoes" and "Five Brothers", have become jazz standards.

Harry Edison American trumpeter

Harry "Sweets" Edison was an American jazz trumpeter and a member of the Count Basie Orchestra.

Louie Bellson American jazz drummer, a composer, arranger, bandleader, and jazz educator

Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni, known by the stage name Louie Bellson, was an American jazz drummer. He was a composer, arranger, bandleader, and jazz educator, and is credited with pioneering the use of two bass drums.

Annabelle Allan Short, known professionally as Annie Ross, is a British-American singer and actress, best known as a member of the jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Early in her acting career, she was credited as Annabelle Logan.

Mel Lewis American musician

Melvin Sokoloff, known professionally as Mel Lewis, was an American jazz drummer, session musician, professor, and author. He received fourteen Grammy Award nominations.

Abbey Lincoln American singer

Anna Marie Wooldridge, known by her stage name Abbey Lincoln, was an African-American jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress, who wrote and performed her own compositions. She was a civil rights advocate and activist from the 1960s on. Lincoln made a career not only out of delivering deeply felt presentations of standards but writing and singing her own material as well.

"Lover" is a popular song composed by Richard Rodgers with lyrics by Lorenz Hart. It was sung in the movie Love Me Tonight (1932) by Jeanette MacDonald.

Flip Phillips American jazz tenor saxophone and clarinet player

Joseph Edward Fillippelli, known professionally as Flip Phillips, was an American jazz tenor saxophone and clarinet player. He is best remembered for his work with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts from 1946 to 1957. Phillips recorded an album for Verve when he was in his 80s. He performed in a variety of genres, including mainstream jazz, swing, and jump blues.

Shirley Horn American singer

Shirley Valerie Horn was an American jazz singer and pianist. She collaborated with many jazz greats including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Toots Thielemans, Ron Carter, Carmen McRae, Wynton Marsalis and others. She was most noted for her ability to accompany herself with nearly incomparable independence and ability on the piano while singing, something described by arranger Johnny Mandel as "like having two heads", and for her rich, lush voice, a smoky contralto, which was described by noted producer and arranger Quincy Jones as "like clothing, as she seduces you with her voice".

June Christy American singer

June Christy was an American singer, known for her work in the cool jazz genre and for her silky smooth vocals. Her success as a singer began with The Stan Kenton Orchestra. She pursued a solo career from 1954 and is best known for her debut album Something Cool. After her death, she was hailed as "one of the finest and most neglected singers of her time."

<i>Anita Sings the Most</i> 1957 studio album by Anita ODay

Anita Sings the Most is a 1957 album by Anita O'Day.

Richie Kamuca American musician

Richie Kamuca, was an American jazz tenor saxophonist.

Ann Richards was an American jazz singer and the second wife of popular music and jazz artist Stan Kenton.

Gary Robert McFarland was a composer, arranger, vibraphonist and vocalist, prominent on Verve and Impulse! Records during the 1960s, when he made "one of the more significant contributors to orchestral jazz".

Jack Nimitz was an American jazz baritone saxophonist. He was nicknamed "The Admiral."

Bill Holman (musician) American composer, arranger, and conductor

Willis Leonard Holman, better known as Bill Holman, is an American composer/arranger, conductor, saxophonist, and songwriter working primarily in the jazz and pop idioms. His professional music career is over six decades long, most notably starting with the Charlie Barnet orchestra in 1950. He is a multi-Grammy winning artist and is most commonly known for his long association with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. He was honored as a 2010 National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters recipient.

Herbert Arnold Geller was an American jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger. He was born in Los Angeles, California.

References

  1. O'Day, Anita; Eells, George (1981). High Times Hard Times. Putnam. p. 34. ISBN   978-0879101183.
  2. "Anita O'Day Live at the Newport Jazz Festival (1958)" on YouTube
  3. Davis, Francis (26 October 1989). "A Mellow Time For Jazz Singer Anita O'day". The Philadelphia Inquirer .
  4. "Anita O'Day". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-08-11.
  5. Here's That Rainy Day - Anita O'Day - Jul 3, 1969 , retrieved 2018-08-11
  6. Fordham, John (2006-11-27). "Obituary: Anita O'Day". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-11.
  7. "Jazz drummer Poole dies at 73". Las Vegas Sun . 14 April 1999.
  8. 1 2 Als, Hilton (11 August 2008). "Voice of Choice". The New Yorker . ISSN   0028-792X.
  9. Jonathan Poole, John's son
  10. Leibowitz, Ed (18 July 1999). "They Said She'd Never Sing Again". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  11. "Anita O'Day: Indestructable" on YouTube