Kitty White – Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 38:52 minutes | 390 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Sunnyside

Born Kitty Jean Bilbrew in 1923, White grew up in a musical family, her mother and father being vaudevillian performers. White was a well-trained vocalist with perfect pitch. She was also a good music reader, which allowed her to find studio work. After recording a couple of albums for EmArcy, White even appeared in a number of movies during the early 1950s, including King Creole (with Elvis Presley), Last Train from Gun Hill and The Old Man and the Sea.

It was only natural that Duke would insist on making a recording of her friend, White, for release on Clover Records. The record company came into focus in 1964 when Castro and Duke made amends and tried to reconcile as a couple. The label would begin with a number of projects featuring Castro but then began to branch out to other artists, most notably Anita O’Day, Kitty White and Teddy Edwards.

Duke was the catalyst for the White record, which would be the third project for Clover. In early 1965, she enlisted her friend, the Paris based pianist and arranger Art Simmons, to prepare a budget and coordinate a recording in Paris, a location that Duke knew White always dreamed of visiting. White had not been very active in some time and was excited for the opportunity not only to record but to visit Paris.

Before going to Paris, White recorded a demo for Come Jet With Me with double bassist Helen Perry on Monday, August 9th. This was to be a joint venture with British Overseas Airways Corporation and Clover Records, which never came to pass. They recorded a version of “So Many Beautiful Men (So Little Time),” an original by White and her ex-husband, Edward “Gates” White.

The White recordings came at the beginning of Clover’s big push into the market. Castro and Duke intended to make an immediate splash and began recording a number of projects. Castro was not involved much in the White project as he was supervising a recording of Anita O’Day in Honolulu and his own small and big band projects in Los Angeles.

Art Simmons had grand ideas for the Kitty White sessions. He originally intended to employ saxophonists Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon and Hal Singer, though none of these musicians could be identified on the recording.

The sessions were held on December 2nd and 3rd and featured trumpeter Sonny Grey, soprano saxophonist/flautist Nathan Davis, bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Kenny Clarke, along with tenor saxophonist Jean-Louis Chautemps, baritone saxophonist Jacques Nourredine, French horn player Melih Gürel, guitarist Pierre Cullaz, bassist Michel Gaudry and conductor Charles “Big” Jones.

The program begins with Howlett Smith’s punchy “Visit Me,” which is followed by the bluesy Oscar Brown, Jr. and Norman Curtis tune, “Summer in the City,” featuring evocative tenor sax, piano and Latin percussion. Leslie Bricusse’s “My Kind of Guy” is subtly swinging and flirty, while E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen’s ballad, “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe,” is hazily impressionistic. “ almost Beautiful Men (So Little Time)” is revisited in a slinky style. The tempo increases on a grooving version of George Gershwin and B.G. De Sylva’s “Do It Again.”

White’s voice shines alongside Cullaz’s guitar on Reisfeld, Fryberg, Marbot and Dick’s sweet ballad, “Call Me Darling.” Chuck Meyer and Biff Jones’s “Disenchanted Lady” is dramatically performed and Bob Russell and Harold Spina’s “Would I Love You (Love You, Love You)” is a sad ballad with tenor sax accents over a warm horn section. Castro and Joe Lubin’s “Bossa Nova All the Way” is an attempt to take advantage of the bossa craze. Irving Berlin’s “Say It Isn’t So” is stripped down to voice, sax, piano and rhythm section, while the band is back for the brief and spirited take on Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s “Just In Time.”

The program concludes with a hushed version of Duke Ellington, Irving Mills and Barney Bigard’s “Mood Indigo” with nice features for trumpeter Grey, saxophonist Davis and guitarist Cullaz. Fats Waller and Andy Razaf’s “Honeysuckle Rose” is a jaunty blues featuring a warm tenor solo, while Bart Howard’s “My Love Is a Wanderer” is a lilting ballad with White singing in an almost operatic style.

Duke and White returned to the States on December 6th. Unhappy with some of the original vocals recorded in France, White went into the studio in Los Angeles to overdub new vocals on January 12, 1966. Two days later, she was back in the studio with a band led by pianist Eddie Bell to record a new version of what Castro hoped would be his hit, “Bossa Nova All the Way.”

While pressings were being made of singles and long playing records and ads flaunted a new label in the wings, Clover was going through upheaval. In late April, Castro and Duke resigned from the board of the label. Their personal and professional relationship was finally at an end. Duke implored Peter Brookes to work the newly released Kitty White record harder. Though the record was released, as Kitty White (CL/CLS -1229), it never managed to develop any steam and languished as Clover subsequently failed.

Tracklist:

1. Visit Me (2:00)
2. Summer in the City (2:51)
3. My Kind of Guy (2:07)
4. Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe (3:23)
5. So Many Beautiful Men (So Little Time) (2:11)
6. Do It Again (1:41)
7. Call Me Darling (Call Me Sweetheart, Call Me Dear) (2:02)
8. Disenchanted Lady (2:36)
9. Would I Love You (Love You, Love You) (2:44)
10. Bossa Nova All the Way (1:57)
11. Say It Isn’t So (2:16)
12. Just in Time (1:49)
13. Mood Indigo (3:04)
14. Honeysuckle Rose (Bonus Track) (2:59)
15. So Many Beautiful Men (So Little Time) (Bonus Track) (2:17)
16. My Love Is a Wanderer (Bonus Track) (3:00)

Kitty White – vocals, piano
Art Simmons – arranger, director
Sonny Grey – trumpet (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Melih Gürel – French horn (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Nathan Davis – flute, tenor saxophone (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Hal Singer, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Jean-Louis Chautemps – tenor saxophone (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Jacques Nourredine – baritone saxophone (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Pierre Cullaz – guitar (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Jimmy Woode, Michel Gaudry – bass (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Kenny Clarke – drums (2, 3-9, 11-14)
Teddy Edwards – tenor saxophone (2, 10)
Eddie Beal – piano (2, 10)
Vernon Polk – guitar (2, 10)
Wilfred Middlebrooks – bass (2, 10)
Billy Moore – drums (2, 10)
Jack Costanzo – bongos, güiro (2, 10)
Eddie Beal – director (2, 10)
Helen Perry – bass (15, 16)

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