I was delighted to meet one of my all time heroes last night, Miss Annie Ross of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross fame. She came to London after a fifteen year absence to play at Ronnie’s and my friend and fellow songwriter Rose Tait splashed out and booked a table for us.
Her set was very witty and poignant as you might expect. Turning 80 this coming July; Annie’s voice has thinned and her range is set mostly in the deeper register but there are still moments of power, and her tour de force performance is not diminished. Singing a selection of jazz ballads alongside some upbeats and her own songs, I found the most moving number to be “Music Is Forever”. It is a tribute that she wrote about the astounding jazz musicians – her friends and peers who are sadly no longer with us, but whose music remains. She says, while we listen to them, they still live. I love this sentiment; it is very comforting. I feel it is true that recordings; audio, film and photographs have a strange magic to them – I have great respect for them. They are a piece of that person – they live. Memories and feelings are captured and frozen in time, just as memories are stored in our own minds.
If anyone had doubted Annie’s ability to pull out of the bag hits from the LH&R show, she proved in ‘Come on Home‘ that as a soloist she can still channel Jon and Dave – singing and swinging a selection of all the parts of that famous recording by herself and never missing a beat. She also hit ‘Twisted’ with a tempo not shy of what I sing it at today and between the lyrics managed to credit the soloists in the band; Tardo Hammer on piano, Dave Green on bass, Steve Brown on drums and her beloved Warren Vache on cornet (their chemistry was really touching and I don’t doubt that it continues outside the performance…)
Anyway, I happen to be friends with Annie’s stepdaughter Victoria Jeffrey, who works as an actress and sadly, couldn’t come last night due to tour commitments. She had given me a letter to pass on to Annie. I explained this to Warren and he invited Rose and I to go backstage and see Annie ourselves, which we were delighted to do. She was so warm and friendly, genuinely delighted by all the attention – as you can imagine, there were rather a lot of old friends and acquaintances, as well as fans clamouring to see her but I thankfully managed to pass on Vicky’s note and spend a few minutes talking with her. I explained that I sing and also that I had written some vocalese, which, were it not for her inspiration I doubt I would ever have done.
It seems appropriate now that ‘The Magical Mirror’, the song I wrote about my late father should be a vocalese. It shares the essence of Annie and her belief in music as eternal life. Perhaps she has gifted me the antidote to the brutal truth – as her lyrics insist; “When they say nothing is forever, well I just smile ’cause I know it’s not true; music is forever, and you still live when we listen to you.”
Thank you Annie.