Etta Jones - vocalist, recording artist (1928-2001)
Etta Jones was a fine jazz singer who made the most of her vocal talents. She retained a loyal following wherever she sang, and was held in the highest regard by her fellow musicians. Her last three decades were her most productive, in both the quantity and artistic quality of her work.
She was born in South Carolina, but brought up in Harlem. She entered one of the famous talent contests at the Apollo Theatre as a 15 year old, and although she did not win, she was asked to audition for a job with the big band led by Buddy Johnson, as a temporary replacement for the bandleader's sister.
Johnson's band was popular on the black touring circuit of the day, and the experience provided a good grounding for the singer. Etta stayed with Johnson's big band for a year and then went out on her own in 1944 to record several sides with noted jazz producer and writer Leonard Feather. In 1947, she returned to singing in big bands, one led by drummer J.C. Heard and the next with legendary pianist, Earl "Fatha" Hines, whom she stayed with for three years. She worked for a number of bands in the ensuing years, including groups led by Barney Bigard, Stuff Smith, Sonny Stitt and Art Blakey, but went into a period of virtual obscurity from 1952 until the end of the decade, performing only occasionally.
In 1960, she was offered a recording opportunity by Prestige Records, and immediately struck gold with her hit recording of "Don't Go To Strangers." She cut several more albums for them in the next five years, including a with-strings session, and a guest spot on one of saxophonist Gene Ammons's many records.
In 1968, at a Washington, D.C. gig, Etta teamed up with tenor saxophonist, Houston Person and his trio. They decided to work together and formed a partnership that lasted over 30 years. She toured Japan with Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers in 1970, but after her final date for Prestige in 1965, she did not make another album until 1976, when she cut “Ms Jones To You” for Muse.
Her closest collaborator in that period was Houston Person, and they cut a string of well-received recordings from the mid-70’s onward, including the Grammy nominated albums “Save Your Love For Me,” (1981) and “My Buddy: Etta Jones Sings the Songs of Buddy Johnson” (1999). They developed an appealing, highly intuitive style of musical response, and were always jointly billed. The pair was married for a time, and he became her manager, and produced most of her subsequent records, initially for Muse Records, and then its successor, High Note.