Nnenna Freelon (with Take 6): Straighten Up And Fly Right

Nnenna Freelon came to jazz singing after raising three children and working as a health care administrator. She was branded a Sarah Vaughan imitator when her first album came out in 1992, but her style evolved rapidly and her recordings over the last 10 years show her as a singer with a style all her own. “Straighten Up & Fly Right” is an apt song for a collaboration between Freelon and the gospel/jazz vocal ensemble Take 6. Nat King Cole based the lyrics on a sermon his father used to deliver. Both Freelon and the members of Take 6 are deeply religious, and so for them, the song implies more than just a story about a monkey and a buzzard. There are no instruments on this recording, but Take 6 sounds like a swinging big band with its wide range of voices and powerful riffs. Freelon sings the melody with a crystal clear sound to which she adds a little growl when hits the word “lie.” Freelon contributes a brief scat solo as Take 6 imitates trombones over the sung bass line. The ending is delightful, as Freelon slowly slides up to the top of the final chord, and then sings a final fall with the other voices.

April 02, 2009 · 1 comment


Nat King Cole: Straighten Up and Fly Right

"That's the filthiest song I ever heard in my life," declared comedienne Lucille Ball, rejecting this track for one of her movies. While Nat King Cole's lyrics are indeed suggestive, his song is coolly within the trickster tradition. All cultures recount tales in which an anthropomorphized animal (e.g., Bugs Bunny) outwits a more powerful adversary. In African-American folklore, the trickster is often a monkey, as in Nat's sly narrative. Cole wasn't above double entendre, but the Baptist preacher's son was no pornographer. Lighten up, Lucy! This is good clean fun. (Well, good fun, anyway. Two out of three ain't bad.)

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments


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