New recordings released this week include a fabulous retrieval from Seattle jazz singer Ernestine Anderson’s early period, plus albums by the Sonics and others.
Ernestine Anderson, ‘Swings the Penthouse’ (HighNote)
Most fans of legendary Seattle jazz singer Ernestine Anderson have never heard her early work, which was released on six, long-out-of-print Mercury LPs in the late ’50s and early ’60s. That’s a shame, because she was so fresh and vivid and optimistic back then.
This fabulous new release of a 1962 live recording from the Penthouse, Seattle’s old Pioneer Square jazz hangout, not only rectifies that situation, it offers a gem that in some ways outshines the old LPs. Recorded by Seattle DJ and archivist Jim Wilke, the album features 13 songs, short and to the point, and gives you the feeling you were right there, sitting by the stage, 53 years ago.
Though the piano comes across a touch warbly from time to time, the room sound bristles with presence and so does ’Steen. Per the title’s promise, she swings the dickens out of Sinatra staples like “You Make Feel So Young,” “It Could Happen To You” and “I’ve Got the World On A String.” She also whispers sultry, after-hours confidences on “Little Girl Blue,” burns her way through “There Will Never Be Another” and takes Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” at a daringly slow but still finger-popping tempo.
Anderson’s voice rings with bell-like clarity in the highs and earthy swagger in the lows, sometimes quavering with a wide, Sarah Vaughan-like vibrato. She is backed up by the Penthouse’s superb house trio (now all deceased) — bassist Chuck Metcalf (who walks like a champ), pianist Dick Palombi (a fiercely bluesy Oscar Peterson man, right down to the rhythmic grunting) and in-the-pocket drummer Bill Richardson.
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This is a real Seattle jazz treasure. Kudos to Wilke and HighNote for bringing it to light.
Other new releases
Curtis Knight & the Squires (featuring Jimi Hendrix), “You Can’t Use My Name: The RSVP/PPX Session” (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)
Ben Goldberg, “Orphic Machine” (vinyl, Royal Potato Family)
The Sonics, “This is the Sonics” (Revox/Broken Silence)
Editor’s note: The Sonics perform at the Moore Theatre Thursday, April 2.