Jazz singer Anita O'Day was just 22 years old when drummer Gene Krupa asked her to join his big band. Krupa also hired trumpeter Roy Eldridge who helped launch O'Day's career with their hit recording "Let Me Off Uptown." As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, it was that song and others that inspired a new tribute album by the Manhattan Transfer's Cheryl Bentyne.
The pairing of Cheryl Bentyne with trumpeter Jack Sheldon on "Let Me Off Uptown" is about as close as you can get to the Anita O'Day original. But all comparisons aside, Bentyne says she was taken by O'Day's impeccable phrasing, which encompassed be-bop, big band and swing.
"It's such a big part of her historically in terms of being a big band singer," she said. "That was really her association. She's just such a swinging singer."
"I was born and raised around swing, big band and Dixieland music, so it was like a natural falling off a log for me, in terms of singing that style of music," she said. "And I honestly believe it stays alive because it's just feel-good music. Swing music is in my blood stream, what can I say."
Hearing distinct similarities between the two vocalists, especially their natural grasp of the Great American Songbook, Bentyne's manager Bill Traut came up with the idea of a tribute. In fact, Traut helped her choose material for the album, a task that required hours of listening to O'Day's original recordings.
"I had to pick a couple of the very obvious: 'Let Me Off Uptown,' 'Pick Yourself Up,' and 'Let's Face The Music And Dance,'" Bentyne said. "Those three for me are real foundation songs of hers and her career. And then beyond that, what I would do is choose tunes that just spoke to me in terms of her performance and how I related to them and what she did with them."
Apart from her solo outings, Cheryl Bentyne plans to join up with the Manhattan Transfer for an eight-month world tour beginning in Korea on June 12.