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Annie Ross: To Lady with Love

C. Michael Bailey By

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If you want to hear the best Annie Ross, listen to King Pleasure Sings / Annie Ross Sings (Fantasy, 1952). If you want to hear the most empathic and honest Annie Ross, listen to To Lady with Love. Ross is in her early to mid-80s and her voice is not what it was in the 50s and '60s, but her passion, grace and intelligence surpasses all previous recordings. This is a late autumn—early winter voice, to be sure. This recording belongs with Lady Day's Lady In Satin, (Columbia, 1958), Johnny Cash's American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around (American Recordings, 2002) and June Carter Cash's Wildwood Flower (Dualtone, 2003). Hard music to listen to. Voices past their peak, recordings that might best have not been made, save for the fact that it was the particular artist making them. Talents that warrant our attention because of who they are (not were). These are valedictories, last notes by the giants who have walked among us and we have taken for granted.

Is jazz dead? Only if we listen to runny-nosed children clinging to the impossibility that anything of musical of any consequence was made in the 1990s or 2000s. Silly children.

Whatever...

Ms. Ross elects to stroll through Billie Holiday's song book. Gratefully, "Strange Fruit" is not here. But she does mention it in her recorded introductory comments. Ross is accompanied by the two most sensitive and responsive accompanist in Pizzarelli Father and Son, in an appropriately intimate setting that showcases Ms. Ross' relaxed and sublime vocals. Ross' singing is heartbreaking in the respect that she is so dedicated to her goal. This is easy to hear when contrasted against the flagrant, gold-digging voyeurism surrounding Anita O'Day's last recording, Indestructible! (Kayo Records, 2006). That artist deserved better...

Ross remains one of the most conversational singers. Her delivery is matter-of-fact, as on "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance" and "Travelin' Light." "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "When Your Love has Gone" make palpable the disappointment and heartache capture in the lyrics of these true classics. Bucky and John Pizzarelli provide Ross with exceptional support, trading solo duties between themselves and always available to inspire the singer to greater emotional depths. I wish Annie Ross many more years of music making.

Track Listing: To Lady; For All We Know; I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance; I’m a Fool for You; Violets for Your Furs; You Don’t Know What Love Is; You’ve Changed; When Your Love 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.

Title: To Lady with Love | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Red Anchor Records

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