Etta James has earned the right to be called a legend. She has won a
Grammy and been inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. But to try
to peg her to one type of music is impossible. Her repertoire includes
singing country,jazz,blues,rock,pop, and of course rhythm and blues. No
matter what she tackles she does it with her own inimitatable
straight-from-the -heart style.
On this disc, she tackles some immortal jazz classics. This is not new
territory for her as she has demonstrated her mastery of that genre on
her previous CD's Mystery Lady and Time After Time. There is a new
twist on this recording because Etta sings a tune with her mother,
Dorothy Leatherwood. On the title track it is apparent what Etta inherited from
her mother.She got the genetics and inspiration but not the pain of
emotion and experience that is so characteristically Etta.
There are 12 other tracks on the CD that she goes after with her usual
aplomb. On "He's Funny That Way" when she croons the words," I've got a
man , crazy for me" it's not just singing, the conviction in her voice
let's you know that it's the gospel truth. Renowned jazz man Cedar
Walton not only arranged the songs but contributes a beautiful piano
solo to the song.
The musicians take some great solos and accompany her suitably but never
outshine her vocal ability. For instance on "There Is No Greater Love",
there is a smokin' trumpet solo but it takes a backseat to her simply
emoting the words "no greater". There is no instrument that can achieve
the kind of feeling that Etta puts into just two words. "Don't Let The
Sun Catch You Crying" on Blue Gardenia is really a blues ballad. Etta
sings with the kind of conviction that when, in her plaintive vocalese,
she sings that "you've made her sore", you've gotta believe. Red
Holloway blows a "saxy" blues solo that this reminisce of the work of
David Fathead Newman.The worldly weariness of her voice makes it clear
she has the blues.
The musicians on this recording are all top caliber. Among the musicians
are her backing band, the Roots Band. Having seen her recently in
concert, these guys are tight. The band is fronted by guitarist Josh
Sklair, who arranged the tune 'Love Letters" on this CD. Other notables
on this CD are Red Holloway on tenor sax and George Bohannon on
Etta James is one of the great female singers of this era. This CD
showcases her grasp of jazz singing . But most of all it gives the
listener a sense of what is the essence of Etta James. To put it simply
she infuses her songs with deep soulful feeling and expression
regardless of the type of music she sings. One listen of Blue Gardenia
and you'll understand.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Putnay Thomas, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.