Anita: The Most (March 30, 2018, Columbia, MO)

One album I will always, always listen to is Anita Sings the Most, starring the scintillating Ms. O’Day and Oscar Peterson, who both supports her winningly and constantly challenges her (she’s more than equal–the proof’s in the pudding) throughout the 33:59 of the 1957 recording. It’s brief, but packed with radiant music.

Anita is at her sassy, mischievous, inventive, joyous best here–it’s the LP I’d recommend first to listeners dark to her genius–and it’s telling that she’s listed as co-producer with Norman Granz. She’s in control, from the song selection, tempos, and drummer, her longtime telepath, codependent, and partner in rhythm John Poole. The band is essential Peterson’s group, with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis, frequently sounding teleported, on guitar, but Anita could always count on Poole to turn the sharp corners she made in her interpretations.

Where to start? Where else but the beginning! Anita Sings the Most explodes out of the gate with two minutes and fifty seconds of quicksilver Gershwin: “‘S Wonderful / They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” There’s something about the heart-quickening pace and instrumental magic that makes her delivery of “You can’t blame / For feelin’ amorous” even more irresistibly fetching:

And it’s not just the sheer speed that’s exciting here. You can hear Anita ache, wince, and steel herself as she feels her way through “Love Me or Leave Me” and (especially) “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”:

If you jazz diva channel only features Billie, Ella, Sarah, and Dinah, consider adding Anita to your programming. Anita Sings the Most is a sure convincer.

Short-shrift Division:

Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed–Bettye sounds forced into some selections of this all-Dylan program, and her voice at times sounds on the verge of shredding, but she nails the title song, wears “Ain’t Talkin'” like she’s Alida Valli at the end of The Third Man, and wrests “Do Right to Me, Baby” out of Dylan’s grip, and Christendom’s.

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