The 37th of Jon Turney’s weekly selections features an uncommonly successful collaboration between a poet and a singer.
Advice to jazz singers: Find a decent poet who is interested in songwriting. Get them to do the words, and set the ones you like to music in a way that suits your interpretation.
Annie Ross, a smart person, figured this out in the 1960s, and recorded this brilliant set with the Tony Kinsey quintet (that’s Gordon Beck on piano), featuring songs by Christopher Logue that were tried out at Peter Cook’s Establishment Club.
I came to it later, but the wry cynicism of the lyrics, as on The Ass’ Song, appealed. They still wear pretty well. And Ross’s performance is just about flawless on every song: poised, pitch perfect, witty, raised eyebrow work in which every moment of the delivery seems judged to perfection. The arrangements by Stanley Myers are unobtrusively effective but the voice is the thing throughout.
There have been great treatments of poets’ words since, notably by Christine Tobin (who goes for the very best poets, too – Yeats, or Paul Muldoon). But this collection, from nearly half a century earlier, shows how it’s done.