• The legendary Annie Ross is arguably the finest jazz singer Britain has produced.
• She first came to prominence in 1952 with her song Twisted, a satire on the world of psychoanalysis, sung in the style of vocalese. In the late 1950s Ross teamed up with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks to form a trio that would take vocalese to new heights of accomplishment. From 1957, they recorded seven successful albums informed by Lambert’s gymnastic vocal arrangements, Hendricks’ impish jazz lyrics, and, as writer Will Friedwald put it, “Annie Ross’ vocal muscle.”
• Exhausted by touring, Annie departed Lambert Hendricks & Ross in 1962 to resume the solo career that had begun a decade earlier, and over the ensuing years she collaborated on albums with such masters as The Modern Jazz Quartet, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker and Zoot Sims.
• A Handful of Songs was recorded in 1963; a highly accomplished album arranged and conducted by Johnny Spence under the guidance of producer John Barry. It is typical of the high standards established by Barry during his tenure as ‘associate producer and creative A&R man’ at Ember, when the cost of his use of the best London studios and recording technicians was consistently justified by superior artistry, if not always sales.
• Ember could see a future. Annie’s album was released in the wake of Chad and Jeremy’s first American hit, Yesterday’s Gone, and the UK chart success of Anthony Newley’s controversial satire on the Profumo scandal, Fool Britannia. It failed to emulate either commercially, though it generated great critical enthusiasm.
• This two-cd edition combines A Handful of Songs with A Gasser!, where Annie is joined by Zoot Sims and Bill Perkins on tenor, pianist Russ Freeman, and guitarists Billy Bean and Jim Hall and by the original London Production of the surrealist musical, Cranks, the brainchild of choreographer John Cranko, with music by John Addison, a set designed by John Piper, a production in which Annie features alongside Hugh Bryant, Gilbert Vernon, and a young Anthony Newley.
• The set is completed by selections from the Lambert Hendricks & Ross albums, The Swingers, High Flying and Sing Ellington and by the song ‘Let’s Fly’, which Annie wrote when she was just 14 and still in school. She submitted it to a contest for a chance to have Johnny Mercer record the winner. The panel of judges comprised Mercer, Dinah Shore and Paul Weston. ‘Let’s Fly’ won, and was recorded by Mercer with the popular harmony vocal group, The Pied Pipers, in 1945.