Etta Jones was a marvelous vocalist with a long outstanding career, she is fondly remembered for her collaborations with Houston Person that endured almost 30 years. Etta was born in Aiken, South Carolina in 1928 and raised in Harlem. Like so many other African-American singers she began singing in the choir of her family’s church, she admired Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington as an adolescent. While still a teenager, the noted bandleader and composer Buddy Johnson took her on the road with his band to alternate vocals with Buddy’s sister Ella Johnson who also served as her guardian. After her 1943 nationwide tour, jazz writer and composer Leonard Feather recommended Etta to clarinetist Barney Bigard which led to Ms. Jones’ first recording sessions. In 1949 Etta joined the prestigious band of Earl “Fatha” Hines and scored her first hit song I Sold My Heart to the Junkman. This led to her decision to go solo and in 1960 she recorded her first LP for Prestige Records and became immensely popular due to her world-wide smash Don’t Go to Strangers which became her signature song. In fact, her album Don’t Go to Strangers was inducted into the Grammy® Hall of Fame in 2008, sadly, a posthumous award. Throughout the 1960s Etta toured and recorded with such stand outs as Oliver Nelson, Roy Haynes, Frank Wess, Gene Ammons and Johnny “Hammond” Smith. In 1973, Etta Jones began a musical relationship with Houston Person that would produce numerous tours, concerts and over 20 albums for the Muse and HighNote recording labels.
Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, the Left Bank Jazz Society presented some of the best jazz talents at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore, MD. On Sunday, February 27th, 1972 Etta Jones was contracted to perform accompanied by the Cedar Walton Trio. That concert was recorded and left in the archives until 2018 when it was rescued, digitally remastered and released as a CD titled A Soulful Sunday in early 2019 by the Reel to Real Recordings subsidiary of the Cellar Live Recordings firm of Vancouver, BC, Canada. It captures Etta at the peak of her career and is her final live performance before teaming up with Houston Person. The Cedar Walton Trio was in top form that Sunday playing behind Etta Jones, Cedar-piano, Sam Jones-Bass and Billy Higgins-drums played to perfection the Jones songbook for that engagement. Etta’s song list were a fine mix of her previous hits like Love Nest, Blow Top Blues and naturally the obligatory Don’t Go to Strangers. Add to this, her takes on the then contemporary tunes, Theme from Love Story aka Where Do I Begin, This Girl’s (Guy) In Love with You and others emphasized her versatility. The audio quality of this CD taken from the original analog tapes and remastered sound very warm and inviting, almost as if you were in the audience on that soulful Sunday. Best of all, thanks to saxophonist and Cellar Live Records owner Cory Weeds, there will be additional previous unavailable music from the Left Bank Jazz Society of Baltimore as well as from other locations coming our way in the future.
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