Let Me Off Uptown – Melanie O’Reilly Tribute to Anita O’Day

Artist/Band: Melanie O'Reilly
Release date: 2018/01/05
Venue: Bagots Hutton LIVE
Reviewer name: Grainne Farren

The title of Melanie O’Reilly’s tribute concert to Anita O’Day (1919-2006) comes from a song the American singer recorded with trumpeter Roy Eldridge and the Gene Krupa band in the 1940s. ‘Let Me Off Uptown’ was a big hit, as well as being one of the first inter-racial duets on record.

Backed by Myles Drennan (piano), Cormac O’Brien (double bass) and Shane O’Donovan (drums) Melanie opened with another memorable number, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, from ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’, a famous documentary film about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. For some of us old-timers present, that brought back colourful memories of the first time we heard Anita.

Between songs, Melanie talked about the singer’s life, her days as a big-band vocalist with Gene Krupa, Stan Kenton and others, the gap in her career caused by drug problems, and her triumphant comeback. But talk was kept to a minimum, as the show was all about the music. Anita O’Day was a musician’s singer as well as a polished, sophisticated performer who appealed to a wide public. All this was clear from Melanie’s interpretation of her songs, from ‘Ten Cents a Dance’ to ‘My Funny Valentine’ and from ‘No Moon At All’ to ‘Old Devil Moon’. Rhythm, timing, diction and feeling were all spot-on in numbers as different as the bop-scat treatment of ‘What Is This Thing Called Love?’ and the tender ballad ‘Angel Eyes’.

Highlights included ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ and ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ – the latter featuring a rare drum solo by Shane O’Donovan. The trio enhanced every number, with some sparkling piano solos and tasty bass solos. Melanie O’Reilly lives in San Francisco, but intends to visit her native Dublin again in the near future. If that means more concerts like this one, we can look forward to some great nights.

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