Sunday, September 07, 2008

Anita O'Day: The Life Of A Jazz Singer

A trailer from the movie ANITA O'DAY–THE LIFE OF A JAZZ SINGER
part 2 of her wikipedia biography
The call from Krupa finally came in early 1941. Of the 34 sides she recorded with Krupa, it was "Let Me Off Uptown", a novelty duet with Roy Eldridge, that became her first big hit. That year, Down Beat named O'Day "New Star of the Year". In 1942, she appeared with the Krupa band in two "soundies" (short musical films), singing "Thanks for the Boogie Ride" and "Let Me Off Uptown". The same year Down Beat readers voted her into the top five big band singers. O'Day came in fourth, with Helen O'Connell first, Helen Forrest second, Billie Holiday third, and Dinah Shore fifth. O'Day married again in 1942, this time to golf pro and jazz fan Carl Hoff.
When Krupa's band broke up after his possession of marijuana arrest in 1943, O'Day joined Woody Herman for a month-long gig at the Hollywood Palladium, followed by two weeks at the Orpheum. Unwilling to tour with another big band, she left Herman after the Orpheum engagement and finished out the year as a solo artist. Despite her initial misgivings about the compatibility of their musical styles, she let herself be persuaded to join Stan Kenton's band in April 1944. During her eleven months with Kenton, O'Day recorded 21 sides, both transcription and commercial, and appeared in a Universal Pictures short Artistry in Rhythm (1944). "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" became a huge seller and put Kenton's band on the map. She also appeared in one soundie with Kenton, performing "I'm Going Mad for a Pad" and "Tabby the Cat". O'Day later said, "My time with Stanley helped nurture and cultivate my innate sense of chord structure." In 1945 she rejoined Krupa's band and stayed almost a year. The reunion, unfortunately, yielded only ten sides. On two of these ("That Feeling in the Moonlight" and "Harriet") O'Day shared the mike with Buddy Stewart, an excellent bop-tinged singer whose promising career was cut short by an early death when he got out of his car to help a motorist in distress in 1950, and unfortunately was promptly run over. After leaving Krupa late in 1946, O'Day once again became a solo artist.
During the late forties, she recorded two dozen sides, mostly for small labels. The quality of these singles varies: O'Day was trying to achieve popular success without sacrificing her identity as a jazz singer. Among the more notable recordings from this period are "Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip", "Key Largo", "How High the Moon", and "Malaguena". O'Day's drug problems began to surface late in 1947, when she and her husband Carl Hoff were arrested for possession of marijuana and sentenced to 90 days in jail. Her career was back on the upswing in September 1948, when she sang with Count Basie at the Royal Roost in New York City, resulting in five airchecks. What secured O'Day's place in the jazz pantheon, however, are the seventeen albums she recorded for Norman Granz's Norgran and Verve labels between 1952 and 1962.
Her first album, Anita O'Day Sings Jazz (reissued as The Lady Is a Tramp), was recorded in 1952 for the newly established Norgran Records (it was also the label's first LP). The album was a critical success and further boosted her popularity. In October 1952 O'Day was again arrested for possession of marijuana, but found not guilty. The following March, she was arrested for possession of heroin. The case dragged on for most of 1953; O'Day was finally sentenced to six months in jail. Not long after her release from jail on February 25, 1954, she began work on her second album, Songs by Anita O'Day (reissued as An Evening with Anita O'Day). She recorded steadily throughout the fifties, accompanied by small combos and big bands. In person, O'Day was generally backed by a trio which included the drummer with whom she would work for the next 40 years, John Poole.
As a live performer O'Day also began performing in festivals and concerts with such musicians as Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Dinah Washington, George Shearing, Cal Tjader, and Thelonious Monk. She appeared in the documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day, filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival which increased her popularity; she admitted later that she was "high on heroin during the concert, and she was unaware of being filmed."
The following year O'Day made a cameo appearance in The Gene Krupa Story, singing "Memories of You". Late in 1959 she toured Europe with Benny Goodman. O'Day wrote in her 1981 autobiography that when Goodman's attempts to upstage her failed to diminish the audience's enthusiasm, he cut all but two of her numbers from the show.
After the Goodman fiasco, O'Day went back to touring as a solo artist. She recorded infrequently after the expiration of her Verve contract in 1962 and her career seemed over when she nearly died of a heroin overdose in 1968. After kicking the habit, she made a comeback at the 1970 Berlin Jazz Festival. She also appeared in the films Zig Zag (1970) and The Outfit (1974). She resumed making live and studio albums, many recorded in Japan, and several were released on her own label, Emily Records.
O'Day spoke candidly about her drug addiction in her 1981 memoir High Times, Hard Times.
In 2005, her version of the standard, Sing, Sing, Sing was remixed by RSL and was included in the compilation album Verve Remixed 3, and 2006 saw her first album release in 13 years, entitled Indestructible!.
One of her best late-career audio performances "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" which opens the film Shortbus (2006) by John Cameron Mitchell.
A feature length documentary Anita O'Day: The Life of A Jazz Singer directed by Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 30, 2007

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