Anita O’Day was in Chicago born 93 years ago today. From my notes for the 2009 O’Day Jazz Icons DVD, this is a summary of her importance:
Anita O’Day was the last of the great female jazz vocalists who emerged in the swing era. She survived Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee and Carmen McRae. She had perfect time and pitch, a voice virtually without vibrato and the ability to swing as hard as the top horn players of her era, which was long. Her feistiness matched her musicianship and she had the respect of her instrumental colleagues, an honor not always accorded singers. O’Day knew with precision what she wanted from supporting musicians. An anecdote circulated after she died in 2006 at the age of 87. She was overheard correcting her drummer. He told her not to tell him how to play. “I’m not telling you how to play,” she said, “I’m telling you when to play.”
Here’s O’Day from a television appearance in Tokyo in l993, performing two of her favorite songs. Pianist Bob Corwin traveled to Japan with her. Drummer Takeshi Inomata, bassist Tatsuro Takimoto and sxophonist Tadayuki Harada were members of the big band that played behind her on the show.