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Anita O'Day

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Anita O’Day (October 18, 1919 - November 23, 2006) was an American jazz singer.

Few female jazz singers matched the hard-swinging and equally hard-living Anita O’Day for sheer exuberance and talent in all areas of jazz vocals. Her improvising, wide dynamic tone, and innate sense of rhythm made her more than just another big-band canary. At a time when most female vocals tended to emphasize the sweet timbres of their voice, she chose to emphasize a path blazed by the one major jazz singer who emphasized message over medium - Billie Holiday. Like Holiday, O’Day combined the soaring freedom of jazz instrumentalist with the storytelling lyricism of a poet.

After making her solo debut in the mid-’40s she incorporated bop modernism into her vocals and recorded over a dozen of the best vocal LPs of the era.

During the late Forties, she recorded two dozen sides, mostly for small labels. The quality of these singles varies: O’Day was trying to achieve popular success without sacrificing her identity as a jazz singer. Among the more notable recordings from this period are “Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip”, “Key Largo”, “How High the Moon”, and “Malaguena”. O’Day’s drug problems began to surface late in 1947, when she and husband Carl Hoff were arrested for possession of marijuana and sentenced to 90 days in jail. Her career was back on the upswing in September of 1948, when she sang with Count Basie at the Royal Roost in New York City, resulting in five airchecks. What secured O’Day’s place in the jazz pantheon, however, are the seventeen albums she recorded for Verve between 1956 and 1962.

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