Cherry Red's él imprint has previously celebrated the legendary career of Anita Kerr with various album reissues, and now the label is putting the spotlight on her prolific work in the studio supporting a host of music's most famous artists. We Dig Anita: The Oohs and Aahs of the Nashville Sound brings together 33 tracks from this multi-talented pioneer of the lush country-pop Nashville Sound - an accomplished singer, musician, arranger, producer and composer. All of the tracks on We Dig Anita, by such artists as Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and Eddy Arnold, feature The Anita Kerr Singers in a background capacity lending a variety of oohs, aahs, and more.
Born in Tennessee, Anita Kerr was only in her early twenties when her eight-voice choir achieved a spot on radio station WSM, home of the Grand Ole Opry. Her weekly broadcasts led to a call to join Red Foley in the recording studio for "Our Lady of Fatima." Foley's song became a No. 16 Pop hit in 1950, and from there, Anita Kerr's career took off. She was signed by Owen Bradley to Decca Records, and by 1955, Kerr was leading a group on an estimated eight recording sessions per week. (It's been surmised that Kerr's singers were heard on 25 percent of the recordings made in Nashville in the latter half of the 1950s!) In 1956 her slimmed-down vocal quartet won the opportunity to appear regularly on Arthur Godfrey's popular Talent Scouts program on both television and radio. Arranger/singer Kerr - also a gifted pianist, composer and producer - signed with RCA Victor in 1961, but continued to back other artists as well as perform under the guise of groups like The Living Voices and The Mexicali Singers. She attained some of her most remarkable success pairing with Rod McKuen for The San Sebastian Strings' series of spoken-word-and-music LPs beginning with The Sea. (The Sea, The Earth, and The Sky have also been newly reissued by él in one box set; full coverage here is coming very soon!) Though she continued to record in America for a variety of labels, Kerr moved to Switzerland in the 1970s; she still resides there today at age 88.
The title of the new compilation is a play on Anita's 1965 album We Dig Mancini! which famously beat out The Beatles' Help! for a 1965 Grammy Award. It leads off with a track from Kerr's frequent Nashville collaborator, guitarist and RCA Nashville chief Chet Atkins, and takes in recordings from the rock-and-rollers (Roy Orbison), country singers (Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, Patsy Cline, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves), folkies (Burl Ives) and pop stars (Ann-Margret) alike. The result is a stunning and hit-packed collection that's a mini-history of The Nashville Sound between 1957 and 1962 as recorded at RCA Victor and Owen and Harold Bradley's studios. Kerr was joined on these recordings by the cream of the Music City crop including guitarists Harold Bradley, Grady Martin and Hank Garland, bassist Bob Moore, pianist Floyd Cramer (who is also heard on his own hit recording of "San Antonio Rose"), saxophonist Boots Randolph, and drummer Buddy Harman.
We Dig Anita: The Oohs and Aahs of the Nashville Sound has a 16-page booklet with copious liner notes excerpted from Michael Kosser's book How Nashville Became Music City USA: 50 Years of Music Row and full musician and singer credits for every song (though not discographical annotation).
The folks at él have also released a slipcased 2-CD set dedicated to American jazz piano great Ahmad Jamal. The Ahmad Jamal Trio and Quintet - Recordings with Ray Crawford collects four complete albums from Jamal originally issued between 1955 and 1961 (plus a couple of bonus tracks) featuring guitarist Ray Crawford.
Influenced by Earl "Fatha" Hines and Erroll Garner, and recognized as an up-and-comer by the great Art Tatum, Jamal made his debut as a leader in 1951. He earned the admiration of luminaries including Miles Davis, and helped pioneer what would later be thought of as "cool jazz," relaxing the breakneck tempo of bebop and allowing for space in his sophisticated interpretations. 1955's Chamber Music of the New Jazz, recorded in Chicago and originally released on the Parrot label, featured Jamal joined by Crawford on guitar and Israel Crosby on bass, tackling standards by the Gershwins, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart as well as Jamal's "New Rhumba" and Crawford's "Jeff." This disc continues with 1956's The Ahmad Jamal Trio, featuring the same line-up. Recorded for Epic Records at Columbia's 30th Street Studio in New York City, it also included tunes by The Gershwins and Porter alongside compositions by Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and even operetta's Rudolf Friml.
The 1959 Epic release The Piano Sound of Ahmad Jamal opens Disc Two. The LP collected early recordings by The Three Strings (Jamal, Crawford and bassist Eddie Calhoun) and The Trio - primarily of pop and showtunes as well as the originals "Ahmad's Blues" and "Aki and Ukthay." Listen to the Ahmad Jamal Quintet closes out this set, recorded in Chicago for the Argo label. Jamal's group here included Crawford, Crosby, violinist Joe Kennedy and drummer Vernel Fournier. The group performed songs including Jamal's own "Ahmad's Waltz," the Gershwins' "Who Cares" and the Latin American standard "Baia."
Two bonus cuts have been appended: Miles Davis' 1957 recording of Jamal's "A New Rhumba," and Gil Evans' 1959 "Joy Spring" featuring Ray Crawford. The enclosed 12-page booklet features an interview with Jamal excerpted from Leo Lyons' book The Great Jazz Pianists, as well as critic Nat Hentoff's original notes for The Piano Scene of Ahmad Jamal. As on the Anita Kerr CD, all tracks are released in accordance with current U.K. public domain laws.
Both Anita Kerr's We Dig Anita and Ahmad Jamal's Recordings with Ray Crawford are available now and can be ordered at the links below!
Various Artists, We Dig Anita: The Oohs and Aahs of the Nashville Sound (él ACMEM310CD, 2016) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Come Softly to Me - Chet Atkins
- Pretty One - Roy Orbison
- Only the Lonely - Roy Orbison
- Here Comes That Song Again - Roy Orbison
- Lana - Roy Orbison
- Just Out of Reach - Patsy Cline
- Cry Not for Me - Patsy Cline
- He'll Have to Go - Jim Reeves
- Margie - Jim Reeves
- Linda - Jim Reeves
- Maria Elena - Jim Reeves
- I'm Sorry - Brenda Lee
- I Want to Be Wanted - Brenda Lee
- Here Comes That Feeling Again - Brenda Lee
- The Rebel Johnny Yuma - Johnny Cash
- Remember the Alamo - Johnny Cash
- Ballad of Boot Hill - Johnny Cash
- Lorena - Johnny Cash
- Slowly -Ann-Margret
- In the Summertime (You Don't Want My Love) - Roger Miller
- When Two Worlds Collide - Roger Miller
- Fair Swiss Maiden - Roger Miller
- Cute Little Girls - Don Gibson
- The Next Voice You Hear - Don Gibson
- Fireball Mail - Don Gibson
- Three Bells (Les Trios Cloches) - The Browns
- Blue Christmas - The Browns
- What a Fool I Was - Eddy Arnold
- Don't Rob Another Man's Cradle - Eddy Arnold
- Shame on Me - Bobby Bare
- A Little Bitty Tear - Burl Ives
- San Antonio Rose - Floyd Cramer
- The End of the World - Skeeter Davis
Ahmad Jamal, Trio and Quintet Recordings with Ray Crawford (él ACMEMD309CD, 2016) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- New Rhumba
- A Foggy Day
- All of You
- It Ain't Necessarily So
- I Don't Wanna Be Kissed (By Anyone But You)
- I Get a Kick Out of You
- Darn That Dream
- Spring is Here
- Love for Sale
- Rica Pulpa
- Autumn Leaves
- Squeeze Me
- Something to Remember You By
- Black Beauty
- The Donkey Serenade
- Don't Blame Me
- They Can't Take That Away from Me
- New Rhumba - Miles Davis
- Old Devil Moon
- Ahmad's Blues
- Poinciana (The Song of the Tree)
- Billy Boy
- Will You Still Be Mine
- Crazy He Calls Me
- The Surrey with the Fringe on Top
- Aki and Ukthay (Brother and Sister)
- Slaughter on 10th Avenue
- A Gal in Calico
- It's Easy to Remember
- Ahmad's Waltz
- Tempo for Two
- It's a Wonderful World
- You Came a Long Way from St. Louis
- Lover Man
- Who Cares
- Joy Spring - Gil Evans Orchestra feat. Ray Crawford
CD 1, Tracks 1-9 from Ahmad Jamal Plays/Chamber Music of the New Jazz, Parrot 55-245/246, 1955
CD 1, Tracks 10-19 from The Ahmad Jamal Trio, Epic LN 3212, 1956
CD 1, Track 20 from Miles Ahead, Columbia CL 1041, 1957
CD 2, Tracks 1-12 from The Piano Scene of Ahmad Jamal, Epic LN 3631, 1959
CD 2, Tracks 13-22 from Listen to the Ahmad Jamal Quintet, Argo LP 673, 1961
CD 2, Track 23 from Great Jazz Standards, World Pacific WP-1270, 1959
Mark B. Hanson says
One disc you haven't featured here (to the best of my recollection) is the new McKuen / Anita Kerr CD reissue of The Sea / The Earth / The Sky. wonderful box set.
Joe Marchese says
Indeed. As I noted above, coverage is coming (very) soon! Thanks, Mark!