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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Etta Jones born 25 November 1928

Etta Jones (November 25, 1928 – October 16, 2001) was an American jazz singer whose critical success and relative commercial obscurity earned her a reputation in her lifetime as a "jazz musician's jazz singer". A highly underrated singer who rarely received the recognition she richly deserved, perhaps the salient mark of her obscurity was the number of times even followers of the female jazz vocal scene would confuse her with a more popular singer, Etta James.

Etta was born November 25, 1928, in Aiken, South Carolina and when she was three years old, the family moved to New
York City. At 15, her family members encouraged her to enter a local talent contest and though she didn't win, she got much more -- a job as the newest and youngest member of pianist Buddy Johnson's big band. Etta stayed with Johnson's big band for a year and then went out on her own in 1944 to record several sides with noted jazz producer and writer Leonard Feather. In 1947, she returned to singing in big bands, one led by drummer J.C. Heard and the next with legendary pianist, Earl "Fatha" Hines, whom she stayed with for three years.

Etta struck out on her own again in 1952, performing at smaller New York City clubs such as The Onyx and the Baby Grand. To make ends meet, she often worked odd jobs as an elevator operator, a seamstress and a LP jacket stuffer at London Records.

In 1960, Etta hit it big with "Don't Go To Strangers"
on Prestige Records. The single became a jukebox favorite, while the album of the same title earned her a gold record. Following her recordings for Prestige, on which Jones was featured with outstanding arrangers such as Oliver Nelson and jazz stars such as Frank Wess, Roy Haynes and Gene Ammons, Jones had a musical partnership of more than thirty years with tenor sax player Houston Person, who received equal billing with her. He also produced her albums and served as her manager, after meeting in one of Johnny Hammond's bands.

Etta and Houston continued performing together around the world, staying their course while riding the rocky waves of rapidly changing musical trends. Fortunately, they weren't in it for the money, rather the joys of travelling and meeting new friends.

As the singer who perhaps came closest to the "natural" sound and phrasing of Billie Holiday, Jones brought to the
fragile and vulnerable Holiday persona a bite and power reminiscent of Dinah Washington. She knew pain and loss (especially following the death of a daughter) but did not let it cast a melancholy aura over her performances.

Etta received a Grammy nomination in 1980 for her album, Save Your Love For Me. Unfortunately, her physical health began deteriorating because of cancer. She re-emerged in the early 1990s with a new passion for life and a spirit for musical adventure. She took on more solo gigs and began collaborating with young musicians such as pianist Benny Green and bluesman Charles Brown.

Etta Jones sang professionally for over 50 years, yet she
steadfastly remained a "best-kept secret" throughout her career. With the clarity of Carmen McRae and the edge of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday, her unique style drew from gospel, R&B, blues, and jazz.

On Oct. 16, 2001, Etta Jones lost her long battle with cancer, the day her last album, Etta Jones Sings Lady Day was released. (info mainly

I have one LP in my library of Etta Jones  entitled "Something Nice". All the tracks are enjoyable but here's one of my favourites: "Till There Was You" from 1961.

Personnel: Etta Jones (vocals); Wally Richardson (guitar); Oliver Nelson (tenor saxophone); Richard Wyands (piano, vibraphone); Jimmy Neely (piano); Lem Winchester (vibraphone); Rudy Lawless, Roy Haynes (drums).


There's not much video footage of Etta but I found "I thought about you". No info given so if anyone can give any details I will be chuffed.


boppinbob said...

Heres the comments from my original post back in 2008

(The late) Mark Austin said...

One question - Why in U.K. can't we get traditional Jazz singers? I feel like getting a flight to New York and then a connection to New Orleans. Sounds like fun and at least you get to see the performer live.
27 November 2008 19:56


Hmmm, I am sure there are some excellent Jazz singers in the uk . It's just the sponsorship & PR that's missing. I have been to some local gigs over the past few years and seen some realy good talent. The trouble is I am not a scout for a big record company, mores the pity.
28 November 2008 11:04

den81164 said...

nice blog....the second pic in the etta jones story is of dinah washington, not etta

boppinbob said...

Photo amended. Thanks.