Her name should be mentioned alongside vocal greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Aretha Franklin, as someone who brought a new and completely individual and innovative expression to the table. And yet so often it seems she gets swept aside. It's a tragedy equalling that of her premature death. Like so many female musicians, her contributions are often overlooked and remain under-celebrated. That's why over the past 20+ years I've made it one of my core objectives to tell their stories and sing their praises in whatever medium available to me. And for the past 4 years I've thrown a party specifically to honor the women of classic soul and R&B. I hope you will be there to pay tribute to women like Esther Phillips on March 7th at the Spare Room.
The Record of the Day is Esther's version of a song best known to modern audiences by Amy Winehouse. This one goes way back to 1949. It began as a jazz instrumental by sax player James Moody. Vocalese pioneer Eddie Jefferson added lyrics in place of Moody's sax solo (as is the definition of "vocalese") and began performing it in his live shows. Then it was picked up by King Pleasure who had a hit with it in 1954. From there it shot off in all kinds of directions and one of those directions was a pop-jazz production featuring Esther Phillips.
I think this is the most sensual version of this song on record. She stuck to the jazz phrasing, but decorated it with yards upon yards of velvet brushed with sophisticated soul. This performance is so warm and cozy, it's like curling up next to a crackling fire on a cold winter night. So nestle up next to Esther's voice for a spell and listen to my selection of the day.