One of my all-time favorite singers passed away in 2006. Anita O'Day has been an absolute inspiration to me...she had perfect timing, an ear for melodic twists and rhythmic tweaks that make you smile every time, a style that seemed effortless and laid back, but was fiercely aggressive and never let up. You hear her music and you can't help but hear the fun she had just singing! When I was younger, I wanted to grow up to be a singer just like her, and I was constantly disappointed that I missed out on the Big Band Era.
Most of my favorite Anita O'Day songs are the ones that she performed with the Gene Krupa Orchestra. Let Me Off Uptown: The Best of Anita O'Day is a good compilation of that era and covers some of my favorites from "Skylark" to "Drumboogie" and of course "Let Me Off Uptown."
Interesting Anita O'Day fact: when Anita was a young girl, a doctor accidentally cut off her uvula while removing her tonsils. (As Ms. O'Day once described it...when a cartoon opera singer opens their mouth to sing, and you see the fleshy piece in the back of the throat that hangs down and vibrates around...that's the uvula.) Because of this medical error, she had a very small range and hardly any vibrato at all. One of the things I love about her singing is that she makes the most of simplicity. You don't need 20 notes, you just need one or two very cool notes, perfectly placed. And of course, those were her strengths. Choosing wisely. Perfect placement.
You can listen to Anita O'Day singing "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "Don't Be That Way" on NPR's Basic Jazz Record Library
There are lots of interesting audio clips from interviews with Anita O'Day on Jazz Profiles from NPR
For more info, please visit The Official Anita O'Day Website