Funny story. So I’m quickly trawling through Counterpoint Records in Hollywood and stumble upon a record marked “rare.”It’s a day before Christmas and I’m looking for a last minute gift. An album from Etta James can’t help but be well-received, right? In light of her shaky health, her music gains an extra (unneeded but natural) pathos. So I take the gift to the friend. Records spins. Album cover is scrutinized. “This isn’t Etta James.” Indeed.
The inevitable Wiki research reveals that I need to go to the Derek Zoolander School for Kids Who Can’t Read Good. Certainly I’m not the only one to make this mistake. Etta Jones‘ Wiki highlights the fact that she is not to be confused with Etta James nor her namesake, Etta Jones (formerly of the Dandridge Sisters). Apparently, there is not much difference that a name makes. Both Etta’s share gorgeous voices, jazz sensibilities and a timeless nature to their music. Their sound is so pristine that it could make a slum seem sparkling.
The record in question was Don’t Go to Strangers, Jones’ first record released on jazz indie Prestige in 1960. Stranger still is that this was once considered a pop record, a platinum seller that briefly made Jones a star. It’s all covers (Billie Holiday, Cole Porter) or songs scribed by other songwriters. And they’re all beautiful and ideal at deluding you into believing you’re in a different decade. Jones slipped off the earth in 2001 and her name hasn’t achieved the resonance of the other Etta. But don’t let anyone tell you differently. If she ain’t better than Billie, she’s the closest one (or at least tied). Chalk another victory up for the wonderful serendipity that illustrates why record shops will always be better than buying online. And that hooked on phonics is some bullshit.