Blue Gardenia

Blue Gardenia

by Etta James
     
 

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On both Mystery Lady and Time After Time, blues and R&B belter Etta James demonstrated that she can also take a sophisticated turn on ballads and standards. With first-call pianist Cedar Walton at the helm, James has created a late-night niche, and on BlueSee more details below

Overview

On both Mystery Lady and Time After Time, blues and R&B belter Etta James demonstrated that she can also take a sophisticated turn on ballads and standards. With first-call pianist Cedar Walton at the helm, James has created a late-night niche, and on Blue Gardenia the two polish the old nuggets “He’s Funny That Way” and “These Foolish Things” to a smoldering glow. With drummer Ralph Penland, veteran tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, and James’s guitarist, Josh Sklar, the core band has a classic appeal, and the vocalist is particularly classy on two sad ballads often associated with Dinah Washington, “This Bitter Earth” and “Cry Me a River.” For the title cut, James’s mother, Dorothy Leatherwood, takes on the role of vocalist. While neither mother's nor daughter’s singing has the nuances of Billie Holiday or Washington, Blue Gardenia is a loving tribute, and it secures James’s status as a bedroom balladeer.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jonathan Widran
The legendary blues singer indeed lives up to the silly cliché about being able to sing the phone book and make it sound rich, meaningful, and soulful. Still, it's always exciting to hear her tackle materials she's missed before. Here she shifts gears impressively into the intimate jazz club mode, performing beautifully arranged takes on a wide variety of standards (from "Come Rain or Come Shine" to "Cry Me a River") under the direction of producer John Snyder and arranger/pianist Cedar Walton. Those two gathered a handful of great jazz players and recorded the initial tracks without James, who had a touch of the flu. A few months later she had recovered and did the amazing vocal sessions which truly sound live and in synch with the music. Beginning with the redemptive theme of "This Bitter Earth," each song allows her to explore both tenderness and guttural emotions, even a little irony on clever twists like "He's Funny That Way." There are also perfectly placed spotlights for the featured musicians. "This Bitter Earth" and "He's Funny That Way" feature a thoughtful improvisation by Walton, while Duke Ellington's "In My Solitude" has a passionate interlude by tenor saxophonist Red Holloway. Most of the vocals are textured over a bed of simmering brass, adding to the old school big band flavor that creates the atmosphere for the project. It's certainly common for great artists to thank their parents for various influences, but James goes one step further on the title track, allowing her mom to sing the tune; mom is no match for her daughter, but it's still a unique touch that adds emotional dimension to an already emotionally rich affair.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/21/2001
Label:
Rca Victor
UPC:
0019341158028
catalogNumber:
11580

Related Subjects

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Etta James   Primary Artist,Vocals
Red Holloway   Tenor Saxophone
Cedar Walton   Piano
Josh Sklair   Guitar
Rick Baptist   Flugelhorn
George Bohannon   Trombone
Tony Dumas   Bass
Ron Powell   Percussion
Ronnie Buttacavoli   Trumpet,Flugelhorn

Technical Credits

Cedar Walton   Arranger
Josh Sklair   Arranger
Sonny Mediana   Art Direction
Jay Newland   Engineer
John Snyder   Producer
Lupe DeLeon   Executive Producer
Richard A. Whiting   Composer
Harry Link   Composer
Jack Strachey   Composer
Neil Moret (Chas. N. Daniels)   Composer
Holt Marvell   Composer
Maurice Yvain   Composer
Charlie Watts   Engineer
John Nelson   Engineer

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