RIP Annie Ross – July 25, 1930 – July 21, 2020

Annabelle Allan Short, known professionally as Annie Ross, was a British-American singer and actress, best known as a member of the jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.

Shortly after arriving in America, she won a token contract with MGM through a children’s radio contest run by Paul Whiteman. She subsequently moved with her aunt, Scottish-American singer and actress Ella Logan, to Los Angeles, and her mother, father and brother returned to Scotland. At the age of seven, she sang «The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond» in Our Gang Follies of 1938, and played Judy Garland’s character’s sister in Presenting Lily Mars (1943).

At the age of 14, she wrote the song «Let’s Fly», which won a songwriting contest and was recorded by Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers.

At the end of tenth grade, she left school, changed her name to Annie Ross, and went to Europe, where she quickly established her singing career. She decided to change her surname to Ross on the plane trip to Prestwick; in a 2011 interview, she said, «My aunt was very fanciful and she said I had an Irish grandmother called Ross, so that’s where that surname came from»

In 1952, Ross met Prestige Records owner Bob Weinstock, who asked her to write lyrics to a jazz solo, in a similar way to King Pleasure, a practice that would later be known as vocalese. The next day, she presented him with «Twisted», a treatment of saxophonist Wardell Gray’s 1949 composition of the same name, a classic example of the genre. The song, first released on the 1952 album King Pleasure Sings/Annie Ross Sings, was an underground hit, and resulted in her winning Down Beat magazine’s New Star award.

Her first solo album, Singin’ and Swingin’ (1952), was recorded in New York with members of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Other albums include Annie by Candlelight (1956), Annie Ross Sings a Song with Mulligan! (1958) with Gerry Mulligan on saxophone and Chet Baker on trumpet, A Gasser! (1959) with Zoot Sims, In Hoagland with Georgie Fame and Hoagy Carmichael and Music Is Forever, featuring Tommy Flanagan on piano.

In February 1956, the British music magazine NME reported that Ross’s song «I Want You to Be My Baby» was banned by the BBC, due to the lyric «Come upstairs and have some loving».

She recorded seven albums with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross between 1957 and 1962. Their first, Sing a Song of Basie (1957), was to have been performed by a group of singers hired by Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert with Ross brought in only as vocal consultant. It was decided that the trio should attempt to record the material and overdub all the additional vocals themselves, but the first two tracks were recorded and deemed unsatisfactory so they ditched the dubbing idea. The resulting album was a success, and the trio became an international hit. Over the next five years, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross toured all over the world and recorded such albums as Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross! (aka The Hottest New Group in Jazz, 1959), Sing Ellington (1960), High Flying (1962), and The Real Ambassadors (1962), written by Dave Brubeck and featuring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae.(citation needed)

Ross left the group in 1962(8) and, in 1964, opened her own nightclub in London. Annie’s Room featured performances by Joe Williams, Nina Simone, Stuff Smith, Blossom Dearie, Anita O’Day, Jon Hendricks, Erroll Garner, and Ross herself. A compilation album of Ross’s 1965 performances from Annie’s Room was released on CD in 2006.

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