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Annie Ross: To Lady with Love (2014)

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Annie Ross: To Lady with Love How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

London-born, Scottish-bred singer Annie Ross
Annie Ross
Annie Ross
b.1930
vocalist
, who is perhaps best known (with Dave Lambert
Dave Lambert
b.1917
vocalist
and Jon Hendricks
Jon Hendricks
Jon Hendricks
b.1921
vocalist
) as part of the hip vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (LHR) in the 1950s and '60s, was eighty-three years old when this earnest tribute to Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
, To Lady with Love, was recorded in 2013. At her advanced age, Ross is far more stylist than singer, a fact that is further amplified by the slender backing of only two guitarists, father Bucky and son John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli
b.1960
guitar
, and a program comprised entirely of languorous ballads (Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
1909 - 1976
composer/conductor
's shuffling "Travelin' Light" is the only tune that embodies any sort of animating impulse).

Meaning no disrespect to Ross, whose reputation as a jazz vocalist is exemplary, but the range is simply no longer there (she struggles with any note outside her narrow comfort zone) and the articulation isn't what it once was either. On certain words or phrases, the sound is akin to what one might expect to hear from someone who has had extensive dental work, which may in fact be the case. As for Ross's technique, it entails more "speaking on key" than singing as customarily perceived, and even then the timbre is at times unsteady.

Ross's brief spoken introduction precedes ten standards recorded by Lady Day, most of them from the 1958 album Lady in Satin. Ross then closes with one of her own lyrics, "Music is Forever," a warmhearted salute to legendary jazz artists co-written with pianist Russ Freeman
Russ Freeman
Russ Freeman
1926 - 2002
piano
. Ross has studiously avoided updating several of Holiday's more memorable themes, such as "Good Morning, Heartache," "God Bless the Child" and "Fine and Mellow," as they have been appraised from almost every angle by a succession of well-known and talented artists. Instead, she focuses on evergreens from the Great American Songbook including "For All We Know," "A Ghost of a Chance," "You Don't Know What Love Is," "When Your Lover Has Gone," I Get Along Without You Very Well" and "Easy to Remember," each of which calls for a relatively concise vocal span. An accompanying fifteen-minute-long DVD consists of interviews with Ross and the Pizzarellis.

In his liner notes, Will Friedwald compares To Lady with Love to other albums "that spotlight one of the heavyweight interpreters who risk presenting themselves in settings that leave them completely exposed," as for example Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
, Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
b.1926
vocalist
/ Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
, and Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
1920 - 1994
vocalist
. "In such a setting," he notes, "there's no place to hide, no carpet under which to sweep any shortcomings." Which is perhaps why it is best not to make the attempt once you are well into your eighth decade. In her prime, Annie Ross could have made this remembrance a wonderful tour de force; alas, this is not that same Annie Ross. If sheer nostalgia inspires you, go for it; otherwise, you'd best give this one a pass.

Track Listing: To Lady; For All We Know; I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You; I’m a Fool to Want You; Violets for Your Furs; You Don’t Know What Love Is; You’ve Changed; When Your Lover Has Gone; I Get Along Without You Very Well; It’s Easy to Remember; Travelin’ Light; Music Is Forever.

Personnel: Annie Ross: vocals; Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar; John Pizzarelli: guitar.

Record Label: OA2 Records


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