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Annie Ross: To Lady With Love

Annie Ross CD To Lady With Love

Annie Ross's newest album, To Lady With Love, is a loving tribute to the singer and vocalese pioneer's friend and inspiration, Billie Holiday.  

She opens with a virtual love letter to Holiday, "To Lady," then sings ten iconic songs everyone remembers Lady Day singing, including seven songs from Billie's classic late album, Lady In Satin.  

Billie's voice on that album, like Annie's voice on this album, is the voice of a woman who's lived these heart-breaking songs, especially "I'm a Fool To Want You."  

Annie's "band" on this album is the musically virtuosic and emotionally heartful father/son twosome of guitar, Bucky and John Pizzarelli.  Annie ends the album with a song she wrote with pianist Russ Freeman, a song Annie believes is deeply true: "Music Is Forever."

Annie Ross is best known as a pioneer of vocalese, the art of writing and singing lyrics to jazz tunes and solos, and she's been singing and a songwriter since she was a child.  

She was born in London to Scottish vaudevillians and came to the US at age 4.  Annie lived early on in LA with her aunt, Ella Logan, who was the star of Finian's Rainbow on Broadway.  When she was 7, she sang "Loch Lomond" in one of the Our Gang comedies.  When she was 14, she won a songwriting contest, and her song "Fly Away" was recorded by Johnny Mercer.  

The 1952 Prestige album  King Pleasure Sings, Annie Ross Sings established Annie as one of the most original new voices in jazz.  That album featured Annie's vocalese lyric to the Wardell Gray tune  "Twisted."  

That song became a signature song for Annie, and also was recorded by singers from Bob Dorough and Mark Murphy to Bette Midler and Joni Mitchell.  

The vocal trio of Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross recorded the album Sing a Song of Basie in 1957 and popularized vocalese like no other group before or since.  Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices, and every other group of jazz singers all have vocal DNA from Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross.  

Dave, Jon, and Annie recorded seven albums, including the jazz musical, The Real Ambassadors, with Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck.   And through the fifty years since she left the group, she's been singing solo.  

She's also continued an acting career.  She's been on stage in London and New York.  She's been on screen in a variety of movies, notably as a villainess in Superman III, as the unforgettable Granny Ruth in the horror trilogy Basket Case, and in several movies with her friend Robert Altman.

Annie Ross sings regularly on Tuesday evening gigs at The Metropolitan Room in Manhattan.   Annie's two-show gig on Tuesday 10/14 will gather friends — Bucky Pizzarelli, Sheldon Harnick, and many more — to celebrate Billie Holiday and To Lady With Love.  

  - Michael Bourne, host of WBGO's Singers Unlimited and Blues Hour

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