Television split a lot of jazz personalities in the 1950s. Dozens of jazz musicians arranged and played in the orchestras of live TV shows in New York and Los Angeles. Some singers who could have been jazz or pop recording artists wound up being actors. One of those was Linda Lawson.
Lawson made only two known album recordings. The first was for Verve in September 1957, on an LP that featured other vocalists called Songs for Your Boyfriend, arranged by Henry Mancini. The second in 1959 was Introducing Linda Lawson for Chancellor Records, a Philadelphia label with a Hollywood presence thanks to Am-Par, the music subsidiary of the American Broadcasting Co. And there's your TV tie-in.
What makes the 12 tracks on this recording stand out—in addition to Lawson's fine, saloon voice—are the arrangements by Marty Paich. In fact, let me introduce the amazing West Coast band on the date...
Al Porcino, Stu Williamson and Jack Sheldon (tp); Frank Rosolino (tb); Bud Shank (as); Bill Perkins (ts); Med Flory (bar); Jimmy Rowles (p); Bill Pittman (g); Joe Mondragon (b); Mel Lewis (d); and the Hollywood String Ensemble.
The chosen songs are a perfect fit for Lawson and show off her heart and chops: Are You With Me, Where Flamingos Fly, But Beautiful, Me and My Shadow, You Don't Know What Love Is, Easy to Love, Meaning of the Blues, Mood Indigo, Like Young, Hi Lilli Hi Lo, Make the Man Love Me and Up Pops Love.
Paich alternates between an 11-piece band and strings, depending on the mood. And the results are gorgeous. The band tracks have a smart snap and the strings will remind you of his arrangements for Chet Baker and Strings in 1953.
I don't know if Lawson is still on the scene. According to the Internet Movie Database, she was born on January 14, 1936 and her most recent television appearance was in 2005 as Aunt Eileen on ER. If so, I hope she'll reach out and contact me by email.
JazzWax note: A big thanks to Jordi Pujol and Todd Selbert, author of The Art Pepper Companion: Writings on a Jazz Original here. Art Pepper is the uncredited alto saxophonist on Where Flamingos Fly (solo), You Don't Know What Love Is (obbligato and coda) and Meaning of the Blues (obbligato, interlude & coda). Paich favored Pepper on all sessions, but the saxophonist coulnd't make it on one of the dates and Bud Shank was brought in for the other tracks.
JazzWax clip: Here's Linda Lawson singing Easy to Love, with a muted trumpet solo by Jack Sheldon, baritone sax run by Med Flory and tenor sax quip by Bill Perkins...