Annie Ross – A Gasser – Annie Ross, vocals; Zoot Sims, tenor saxophone; Russ Freeman, piano; Jim Hall, guitar; Monte Budwig, bass; Mel Lewis, drums – World Pacific/Pure Pleasure PPAN WP1285 – mono 180-gram audiophile LP ****:
Annie Ross was born in the UK and raised in Los Angeles; after winning a talent contest, she was signed to a contract with MGM and appeared in television and movies alongside the likes of Judy Garland. Later, she toured as a vocalist with the Lionel Hampton big band and performed with a host of jazz musicians from Louis Armstrong to Quincy Jones, and became renowned as a great jazz singer with tremendous range. However, she gained her fame primarily as one-third of the jazz vocal supergroup Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, who were the pioneers of the jazz vocal style known as “vocalese.” Vocalese practitioners created snappy new lyrics for otherwise strictly instrumental tunes; a prime example of Annie’s art would be the song “Twisted,” which was a huge hit for her and has since been recorded by as diverse artists as Joni Mitchell and Bette Midler. Needless to say, her solo albums have been somewhat neglected; this excellent LP, originally issued on the World Pacific label in 1959, is a prime example of her solo work and a real showcase for her vocal talents.
The song selection on this mostly straight-ahead jazz offering is pretty diverse, with ballads and blues a plenty, and the occasional stroll down Tin Pan Alley. Many of the most effective songs are the slower numbers such as “Invitation To The Blues” and ” I Didn’t Know About You,” but the one song that may be worth the price of admission here is the classic Rodgers and Hart tune “You’re Nearer,” which Annie delivers with heartbreaking beauty. And the supporting cast is a veritable jazz dream team, with the always excellent Russ Freeman on piano, Jim Hall on guitar and none other than Zoot Sims providing the magnificent work on tenor sax on many of the tunes. As I listened to this record, I was initially struck by a certain sense of déjà vu – that I’d heard this voice and these recordings somewhere before. I soon realized that the voice I was thinking of belongs to the excellent English singer Claire Martin (whom I’ve raved about in these very pages!) – the resemblance is uncanny, and I most definitely know now who one of Miss Martin’s primary influences is!
Pure Pleasure has a real knack for rescuing albums from obscurity, and they’ve done a real service to the jazz community with this reissue. Don’t let the fact that this is a mono recording put you off – this record is cut from the same classic cloth of most fifties jazz recordings, and the mono is big and expansive. The remastering job by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray is a work of art; a great deal of the credit here goes to their excellent work in delivering this gem to us in such superb shape. Highly recommended!
TrackList: Everything I’ve Got; Invitation To The Blues; I Didn’t Know About You; I Don’t Want To Cry Anymore; Lucky Day; I Was Doin’ Alright; You Took Advantage Of Me; You’re Nearer; Lucky So And So; Nobody’s Baby.
— Tom Gibbs