'H. Johnson's Jazz Moment': Anita O' Day

"Blues Classics" host H. Johnson. (Photo of WABE)

WABE’s H. Johnson has been a fixture on our station since 1978. As host of both “Blues Classics” and “Jazz Classics,” H. continually educates and entertains WABE listeners every Friday and Saturday night. H. is adding “City Lights” music contributor to his exceedingly long resumé, and he’ll be joining the show every other Friday to share a bit of his breadth of jazz knowledge.

The new segment, “H. Johnson’s Jazz Moment,” explores selections from the best of H.’s music collection along with tidbits from history, personal reflections, and H.’s thoughts on the evergreen resonance of jazz. 

Today’s “Jazz Moment” takes a listen back to the work of Anita O’Day, whom Johnson proclaims “one of the most swinging vocalists out there.” Her distinction from the other essential jazz vocalists of her time and before – Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee – rested in the one-of-a-kind swing in O’Day’s delivery, captured in its essence in featured track “Yesterday/Yesterdays,” a melding of the Beatles’ classic “Yesterday” and Jerone Kern-Otto Harbach’s “Yesterdays.”

It’s a bold and adventurous big-band arrangement, journeying through both songs as O’Day’s playful vibrato lilts effortlessly over pushing percussion and flirtatious brass.

“Once someone leaves us, the public has a tendency to forget,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, they’re replaced by mediocre imitators. Am I making sense? I mean, I can listen to some of the new people now singing and say, ‘Oh, she’s been listening to Anita O’Day because they’ll be trying to phrase and swing like Anita, and they don’t quite get it. But I know who they’re trying to get it from.”

Catch H. Johnson’s Blue Classics every Friday from 10 p.m. to midnight and Jazz Classics every Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on WABE 90.1 Atlanta.