Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer
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Before her death in November 2006 at age 86, Anita O'Day, one of jazz's most complex and rhythmic vocalists, smiled on the music world for six decades. This film portrait captures all the magic that took this sly Chicago native, a white girl who could hold her own against Billie and Ella, from Gene Krupa's bandstand to solo stardom. Film footage of Anita O'Day's appearance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, immortalized in the 1960 documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day and excerpted here, may be the defining moment of the post-bebop era.

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"The incomparable songbird is finally given her due in one of the greatest music documentaries I've ever seen."
‑ Peter Schilling, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer chooses from all the existing materials, and is invaluable."
‑ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"Even with that uninspired title, Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer is a fitting tribute, a fascinating and swinging documentary."
‑ Mike Scott, Times-Picayune
"If Anita O'Day had to choose a motto for her life, it would probably be "That's how it went down.""
‑ Sarah Boslaugh, Playback:stl
"The story of O'Day's talent and innovation is well told."
‑ Theresa Everline, Austin Chronicle
"A close-up look at the strange alchemy that is jazz singing -- singing at its most sublime."
‑ Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
"A gentle, swinging film that pieces together her extraordinary life story from vintage performance clips and various interviews done over the years."
‑ Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle
"Blue eyed soul at its very best!"
‑ Kam Williams, Sly Fox
"O'Day survived the rigors of what euphemistically might be called 'the jazz life.' Comments Bryant Gumble: 'Your personal experiences include rape, abortion, jail, heroin addiction...' Responds the unflappable O'Day: 'It's the way it went down, Bryant.'"
‑ John Beifuss, Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
"The great jazz singer Anita O'Day operated in some far-out be-bop realm of her own."
‑ Dan Callahan, Slant Magazine
"Robbie Cavalina and Ian McCrudden's loving tribute to the great singer orchestrates archival footage, late-in-life interviews and some spectacular music into one of the better bio-pics of recent years."
‑ John Anderson, Newsday
"Alive with improvisational energy and rejecting the conventional biographical format, the film pursues ideas and feelings rather than chronology as it scats through an archival wealth of interviews with O'Day and some of her most inspired performances."
‑ Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times
"It's lovingly made, with jazzy movement, and though it's no great technical achievement, its low-budget aura hardly detracts from the mission."
‑ Steve Paul, Kansas City Star
"Even if you're not nuts about the music in Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer, I bet you'll fall for the musician."
‑ Chris Hewitt (St. Paul), St. Paul Pioneer Press
"O'Day is so exciting here, the film doesn't just cater to fans but can generate new ones to celebrate the role of the song stylist for the Great American Songbook."
‑ Nora Lee Mandel,
More reviews for Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer on Rotten Tomatoes