Etta Jones: Hollar (1960)
Etta Jones is one of many singers who find it hard to escape the large shadow cast by songbirds like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, but still manage to create music filled with verve, grace, and sophistication. Hollar is an odd title for a record as subdued and mannered as this one is; Jones is much more silky and seductive than she is bellowing and boisterous. Essentially, this record is made up of three separate sessions, where Jones is mostly backed by relative unknowns. The quartet session is the livelier of the two, Richardson in particular giving things a little extra juice with his nimble guitar playing. "And The Angels Sing" from this session in particular shows off Jones's penchant for passionate, restrained singing and kicks off the album with panache.
Sticking mostly to ballads, the second group creates a dream-like cushion underneath Jones's rich vocals simply with subdued piano textures and languid vibes. Oliver Nelson takes bold solos on two of the tunes (he will be instantly recognizable, even to those who only have heard him from Blues And the Abstract Truth ), but gets points deduced for beginning both with the same basic phrase. The only real low points are "They Can't Take That Away From Me", which is taken at a sluggish tempo, and the twin guitars and squalling sax of "Nature Boy" that turn a reasonably good interpretation of a song into a fuzzy mess. The two songs sandwiched in between these two are the highlight; "Answer Me My Love" in particular is quite lovely. Jones wrings every bit of pathos out of the lyrics while Neeley plays so delicately he seems to barely be touching the keys. "Looking Back" is an effective melancholy blues and would have been a terrific way to end the album as Jones reminisces about all the mistakes she made throughout her life which drove her lover away. The more well know tunes are just merely good; the way that Jones brings attention to less well known songs such as these two are the real accomplishment.
Track Listing: I See You, Our Love Is Here To Stay, Reverse the Charges, They Can't Take That Away From Me, Answer Me My Love, Looking Back, Nature Boy.
Personnel: Etta Jones, vocals; on 1, 3, 6, 8, 9: Wally Richardson, guitar; Jimmy Neeley, piano, Michael Mulia, bass; Rudy Lawless, drums; on 2, 4, 5, 7: Oliver Nelson, tenor sax; Lem Winchester, vibes; Richard Wyands, piano; George Duvuvier, bass; Ernest Hayes, drums; on 10: Jerome Richardson, tenor sax; Kenny Burrell, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitars; Sam Bruno, piano; Ernest Hayes, bass; Bobby Donaldson, drums.