Ernestine Anderson: Welcome to the Club


Welcome to the Club



Big City (Concord Jazz CCD-4214)

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Ernestine Anderson (vocals), Hank Jones (piano),

Monte Budwig (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)


Composed by Mel Tormé


Recorded: San Francisco, CA, February 1983


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Ernestine Anderson was in the news in mid-2008 for the wrong reason. Rather than celebrating her artistry, news stories revealed that she was struggling to avoid foreclosure on her home in Seattle, where the 79-year-old singer had been raised. Thanks to generous public support, Anderson survived the crisis. And in any event, her "Welcome to the Club" does not refer to the growing number of U.S. homeowners facing similar threats during this period. Rather, Mel Tormé's song deals with another kind of loss – the end of a love affair. Anderson first recorded it in the late 1950's, when she gained such popularity that she won Down Beat's New Star Award in 1959. However, from the early '60's to the mid-'70's, her career foundered, until bassist Ray Brown became her manager and helped her secure a recording contract with Concord Records.

The vocalist's Big City LP earned her a Grammy nomination in 1983, and on it she redid "Welcome to the Club," resulting in a wiser, more mature interpretation. Why this memorable Tormé composition, with its superb lyrics, has been rarely recorded by others is a mystery. Hank Jones's concise intro is practically identical to McCoy Tyner's opening for Johnny Hartman's classic "Lush Life" with John Coltrane (1963). Anderson sings the words in her deep, bluesy voice with a resigned air of regret: "If you are feeling 15 shades of blue, and the sky just dropped on you, because that big romance fell through, welcome to the club." The emotional way she sings the word "alone" in the phrase "you are certainly not alone," lets you know with certainty that she's been there herself. Two other lines that are a perfect match between Anderson's expressive voice and Tormé's writing: "Misery, they say, loves company, so take my hand and lean on me," soon followed by "Shakespeare said, 'Ah, there's the rub,' welcome to the club." The perfectly attuned accompaniment of Jones, Budwig and Hamilton completes this highly recommended track.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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