I was sad to read that the great jazz singer Annie Ross left us yesterday.
I have to be grateful to my pal, Hal Willner for the invitation to write this melody for Annie Ross to sing in Robert Altman's "Punishing Kiss" and for the chance to share a few words with her at the Sweetwater Tavern after the movie was screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
I first became aware of Annie Ross when Georgie Fame covered the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross tune, "Gimme That Wine" on the Fame At Last E.P. in 1965.
Such cues would turn up from time to time, like when Joni Mitchell covered the Annie Ross tune "Twisted" on Court & Spark, to which she added "Centerpiece" on her next album.
Annie Ross' collaboration with the incredible Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert brought together three singers with the vocal dexterity and a tonal blend that could bring lyrical wit to harmonized adaptations of jazz melodies and saxophone solos which were rendered as "vocalese."
As a solo singer, you should seek out Annie Ross' recording of Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are," sung with a pure, flexible tone that deepened in line and grain with time and experience until her voice was entirely suited to the anguished character she portrayed in Short Cuts and a song which described a lonely woman, glass in hand, seeing the remnants of her romantic life mirrored in a daytime television melodrama.
Although the rendition omits the double-time bridge that might have been more suited to an earlier hour, the portrait in verses could not be more as I imagined it. It is a performance that owns that over-used cliche, "world-weary" but with a musical intelligence that was alive to the sad, dry comedy described in the song.
But as Annie once sang in "Twisted": "You know two heads are better than one"