O'Day in the Life
Click heading for NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviewing Anita O'Day (November 29, 2006).
Opening today in New York and Los Angeles is the 92-minute documentary, Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer
, directed, photographed and edited by Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden. Cavolina is her former manager.
Anita O'Day (1919-2006) was born Anita Belle Colton and took her professional surname from the Pig Latin word for "dough," which she need to support her drug habit. She said she could not read her autobiography, High Times Hard Times (1981), because it made her cry. Her appearance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, captured in Bert Stern's Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959), was one of the peak moments of the 1950s. She was not only a soloist, she blended in as an instrument with the musicians onstage. In the Newport clip below she sings "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Tea for Two." Does the musical quote in "Tea for Two" sound familiar? It's from the 1950s Marlboro commercials with the lyrics "You get a lot to like in a Marlboro: filter, flavor, flip-top box."
The jazz critic Martin Williams once told me that some scenes in Jazz on a Summer's Day
were fake. Stern explained to Williams that he did not have enough shots of the Newport audience. Williams arrived at Stern's studio and joined an invited group sitting in folding chairs on artificial green turf. Stern then projected a rough cut, filmed everyone while they watched and later spliced that studio footage into his documentary.
However, nothing fake about the wondrous Anita O'Day, wide-brimming over as she channeled the harmonic reverberations of the universe.
Labels: bert stern, jazz, newport, o'day