Whether intentionally or not, Conawag Records neglected to put a date on the spirited, engaging, history sweeping performance by songwriter and vocalist Anne Phillips on her new release Anne Phillips: Live at the Jazz Bakery. But it’s no matter, because timelessness is the defining artistic trademark of an extraordinarily eclectic artist who released her debut album Born to Be Blue in 1959 – and waited 41 years (maybe a record?) before putting out her follow-up Gonna Lay My Heart on the Line.
She brings a fascinating behind the scenes resume to her solo career, having started her career as a singer, arranger, conductor and producer for commercials (including jingles for the Fout Tops and Martha and the Vandellas) and doing demos for Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Neil Diamond. Fronting and working deftly with the ensemble of pianist Roger Kellaway, bassist Chuck Berghoffer and her husband, saxophonist Bob Kindred, Phillips stirs up an inviting blend of heartfelt intimacy and Broadway style wit, joy and heartbreak, complementing lush balladry with a keen sense of light jazz swing.
Her skills as a songwriter and storyteller are such that not only do her original gems like “I’m Gonna Lay My Heart on the Line,” “Watching You Watching Me” and “Another Day Without Him” feel comfortable alongside classics by Mel Torme and The Gershwins, they are even more emotionally gripping.
Phillips adds context and extra character to the set with five spoke word interludes full of thoughtful anecdotes that help the audience – and now listeners – understand her history in a beautiful, personal way.