Personnel: Ernestine Anderson (vocals); Donald Harrison (alto saxophone); Lafayette Harris (piano); Rodney Jones (guitar); Chip Jackson (bass); Carl Allen (drums).
Recorded at Nola Recording Studio, New York, New York on July 15, 2003.
Personnel: Ernestine Anderson (vocals); Rodney Jones (guitar); Donald Harrison (alto saxophone); Lafayette Harris, Jr. (piano); Carl Allen (drums).
Liner Note Author: Fred Bouchard.
Recording information: Nola Recording Studio, New York, NY (07/15/2003).
Photographer: Alan Weissman.
Arranger: Rodney Jones.
Ernestine Anderson has been not only one of the greatest all-time jazz and blues singers, but has also displayed remarkable consistency. Her straight-laced, no-nonsense, soulful vocal control has graced many a standard or laid-back bluesy tune, each one of which she makes all her own. This collection is no different in terms of her refined quality in rendering well-known tunes, but there are some true signature statements included here that have to keep her high on anyone's list of favorite American born and bred vocalists. Producer, arranger, and guitarist Rodney Jones is a treat to hear on this date, dipping deep into the wellspring of his blues background in a way his progressive recordings only hint at. Pianist Lafayette Harris is one of those unsung heroes who plays so much in the pocket, he's easy to take for granted, yet never upstages anyone. Bassist Chip Jackson is borrowed from Billy Taylor's band, and the hard charging young drummer Carl Allen tones his swing down beautifully for this program of classy tunes. Anderson's sophistication comes to the forefront for ballads like "It's Easy to Remember" as the band adopts a classical Modern Jazz Quartet type backdrop under lyrics of regret, while two Michel Legrand songs, "Love Makes the Changes" has some great piano musings from Harris, and the little boy lost tune "Pieces of a Dream" makes one aware of her authenticity in relating matters of the heart. Her sullen, confident voice on the song of slight confusion "Wonder Why," as well as five other tracks, blend in the tart alto saxophone of Donald Harrison, an unmatched pair working in contrasts, not in tandem. It's great to hear her do the autobiographical "Nightlife" popularized by Willie Nelson with Jones in the style of B.B. King, or an easygoing take of Louis Jordan's fun tune "Everybody Eats When They Come to My House," just to show that everything is not all serious or about a brokenhearted romance. "On the Sunny Side of the Street" showcases Anderson at her best, straddling the lyric with classic extensions over seven tasty minutes; it's the only one in the bunch she has recorded before (with George Shearing on the 1988 Concord album Perfect Match) adding some scat to the famous song lines as well. Though most will not be familiar with "Bargain Day," shoppers of material goods or love will relate to finding that discounted item when they least expect it, and pleased that Jones knows his blues interpretations so well as heard here. A solid effort, and one of her better latter period recordings, Ernestine Anderson deserves all the high praise she can receive as a truly first-rate singer, and mainstream populist purveyor of her craft far beyond most mortal divas or wannabes. ~ Michael G. Nastos