This release on British label Él Records sells itself short since it's very much more than just A Handful Of Songs. It's actually more like a veritable cornucopia of songs. Covering two CDs, in addition to the title album there's A Gasser! and the original cast of the London Production of the revue Cranks, named after John Cranko, who wrote and devised the show with music composed by John Addison. There's a "taster" selection of tracks from four albums by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and there's also a curiosity in the form of "Let's Fly" the first song Ross composed and which is sung by Johnny Mercer, recorded in 1947.
Annie Ross possesses a uniquely idiosyncratic voice imbued with sardonic feistiness, and for that reason delivers clever lyrics with panache and swing in a manner unattainable by most singers. Listen to Ross's rendition of Christopher Logues's lyrics on the album Loguerhythms: Songs From The Establishment (with the Tony Kinsey Quintet), now thankfully in print once more (also on Él Records). The satirical words are delivered by Ross with such venomous charm that it is impossible for them not to make a lasting impression on the listener. There's also a touch of vulnerability to Ross's delivery making her singing even more attractive. Ross is also capable of great sensitivity as heard on tracks like Bart Howard's timeless "Fly Me To The Moon" and Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy." This idiosyncratic style is especially noticeable on tracks such and "Love For Sale," where she employs an affecting recitative or spoken technique also heard on Loguerhythms. Similarly, Ross also is recognised as a leading exponent of the vocalese style of delivery and this is evident on songs such as Furber and Braham's "Limehouse Blues" more commonly rendered as an instrumental immortalised by Django Reinhardt.
This double CD is not the first reissue of any of the tracks on this collection, recorded between 1947 and 1963 but it's always a welcome event when re-released on a British label for this most British of singers, albeit one who has made her home in America for most of her adult life. The presentation of this release is excellent, a slipcase includes a sixteen page booklet and it's been lovingly and knowledgably curated with assistance from writer Andy Morten. The bonus tracks comprise A Gasser! (1959) which has been available for several years on various labels and features Zoot Sims amongst others. The single track composed, but not sung, by Ross "Let's Fly," clearly demonstrates that Ross's talents lay not just in singing, since this is a mature and confident number sung by Johnny Mercer and a backing group known as The Pied Pipers sounding very much like the Andrews Sisters. Incredibly Ross submitted the song for a competition at the tender age of 14 whilst still attending school. The recording of the original London cast production of Cranks is perhaps an acquired taste, best regarded as an interesting curiosity. Although lyrically sharp, it is nevertheless "of its time."
Arguably the real bonus is the taster selection of four albums by the prodigiously talented vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross in which Ross performed from 1957 until her departure in 1962. The group recorded half a dozen albums and appeared at the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival. Their rendition of Bobby Timmons's "Moanin'" is superb and their propensity for scat singing is heard throughout, including a lively version of "Airegin." The trio managed to execute impressive vocal gymnastics as on Duke Ellington's "Cottontail." The press release for this set states boldly "The legendary Annie Ross is arguably the finest jazz singer Britain has produced." But this is no hyperbole as it is almost certainly true and this excellent release will attest to that fact.
CD 1 - A Handful Of Songs; All Of You; Fly Me To The Moon; Nature Boy; Love
for Sale; A Lot Of Livin' To Do; Let Me Love You; All Things You Are; I'm
Gonna Go Fishin'; Like Someone In Love.
Everything I've Got Belongs to You; Invitation to the Blues; I Didn't Know
About You; I Don't Want to Cry Anymore; Lucky Day; I Was Doin' Allright; You
Took Advantage of Me; You're Nearer; I'm Just a Lucky so and So; I'm
Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers: Let's Fly (Written by Annie Ross)
CD 2 - Cranks:
Who's Who / Adrift; Where Has Tom Gone?; Cold Comfort; Passacaglia; Who
Is It Always There;
Chiromancy; New Blue; Valse Anglaise; Don't Let Him Know You; Sea Song;
I'm the Boy You Should Say "Yes" To; Metamorphosis; Would You Let Me
Arthur, Son Of Martha; Goodnight.
Selections from Lambert, Hendricks and Ross:
From: The Hottest New Group In Jazz:
Moanin’; Everybody’s Boppin; Gimme That Wine
From: The Swingers:
Airegin; Love Makes The World Go Round
From: Sing Ellington:
From: High Flying:
Cookin’ At The Continental; Come On Home; Popity Pop.
Annie Ross: on all tracks (except on Let’s Fly).
A Handful Of Songs: Johnny Spence: conductor plus uncredited musicians.
A Gasser!: Bill Perkins, Zoot Sims: tenor saxophone; Russ Freeman: piano;
Billy Bean, Jim Hall: guitar; Monte Budwig: bass; Frank Capp, Mel Lewis:
drums. Let’s Fly: Johnny Mercer, The Pied Pipers: vocals.
Cranks: Hugh Bryant, Anthony Newley, Gilbert Vernon: vocals plus Orchestra.
Lambert Hendricks & Ross:
On all tracks: Ross with Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks: vocals plus:
The Hottest New Group In Jazz: Harry “Sweets” Edison: trumpet; Gildo
Mahones: piano; Ike Isaacs: bass; Walter Bolden: drums.
The Swingers: Zoot Sims: tenor saxophone; Freddie Green, Jim Hall: guitar;
Ed Jones: bass; Sonny Payne: drums.
Sing Ellington: Gildo Mahones: piano; Ike Isaacs: bass; Jimmy Wormswoth:
High Flying: Gildo Mahones: piano; Ike Isaacs: bass; Jimmy Wormswoth:
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