Etta Jones: If You Could See Me Now
If You Could See Me Now
Etta Jones (vocals)
My Gentleman Friend (Muse 5534)
Recorded: New York, 1994
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
The two Ettas, Jones and James, endured decades of confusion due to the similarity of their names, as opposed to their obviously different voices and singing styles. It wasn't until, by coincidence, the mid-'90s that each dared to record the other's big hit from the '60s, James doing "Don't Go to Strangers" and Jones recording "At Last." Both singers recorded tributes to Billie Holiday as well, but Jones was more of a pure jazz vocalist, whereas James's approach to jazz never entirely forsook her R&B roots. Etta Jones, however, was also extremely adept at the blues, and thus could be considered more versatile, if never as popular, as Etta James.
James had a favorite saxophonist in Red Holloway, but in that regard could not match Jones's three-decade musical partnership with tenorman Houston Person. Nonetheless, Person himself stepped aside in 1994 to produce a unique and memorable session that featured Jones exclusively in duets with the emerging young pianist Benny Green, who had first drawn attention as Betty Carter's accompanist. Jones is in fine voice, and the sparse setting allows the listener to focus on the enduring characteristics of her individual style, which are mostly derived from her main influences, Holiday and Dinah Washington. On "If You Could See Me Now," she lags the implied beat a little as usual, alters her pitch and skillfully varies the dynamic level for dramatic effect, sometimes bends notes in a manner that nearly suggests a yodel, and gravitates effortlessly from the intimately conversational to the emotionally exclamatory. Green's plaintive intro, responsive comping and eloquent solo that features some imposing chord progressions, all manage to match Jones in both artistry and expressiveness.
Reviewer: Scott Albin