Clooney’s final recording a fitting remembrance
Rosemary Clooney always thought of herself as the girl singer, a phrase that owes its origin to the big band era, when every dance band had a “boy singer” and a “girl singer.” And for a vocalist who launched her career with sister Betty in the Tony Pastor Orchestra, it’s only fitting that on her final recording, Clooney should be a “girl singer” with a big band (Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack).
Rosie’s voice had become darker, deeper and rougher around the edges than the silken-voiced songstress of yesteryear, but it remained cheerful and downright sunny at times. And unlike Ella Fitzgerald, laden with a miles-wide vibrato nearing the end of her career, Rosie was spared that fate. Moreover, Clooney knew her limitations, so she chose songs that were well within her somewhat narrow range.
As a result, backed by a band made up of crack musicians and splendid arrangements by her pianist, John Oddo, and Cat Pack top cat Matt Catingub, Rosie’s last hurrah – she died in July – is indeed a meaningful, sentimental journey.
While the singer’s program runs primarily to pop standards, several songs take on special significance. One is a self-portrait, “I’m The Big Band Singer,” penned by Merv Griffin, and another is “The Singer,” this one written by former Frank Sinatra sidemen Vinnie Falcone and Joe Cocuzzo.
“Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe” is Clooney’s moving tribute to Woody Herman canary Frances Wayne, while a groovy take of “Rocking Chair” is a nod of the head to Mildred Bailey; and “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” is a nod to bandleader Les Brown.
Rosie turns up the heat on “And The Angels Sing,” comes on mellow for “I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues,” works with the rhythm section only on a lilting “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” shares the lyrics of the clever “Ya Got Class” with Catingub, and rides a Basie-like chart to the end of the line on the Doris Day signature song “Sentimental Journey.” To put a wrap on the 23-song outing, Rosie punches out a triple-header medley of “I Cried For You,” Who’s Sorry Now?” and “Goody Goody.”
Though not vintage Rosemary Clooney, the disc nevertheless gives you a special something to remember her by.
Cam Miller is a freelance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. You may write to him care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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