The most noteworthy thing I observed about Anita O’Day from watching her documentary, Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer, is her brash attitude that remained with her throughout her life. During her younger years, she did not seem to fear the negative repercussions that could have been slung her way for working with African-American artists during a time period when it was beyond taboo. Even the way she interacted with him on stage in their back-and-forth dialogue was done in a way that came off as carefree.
In her elder years, she maintained that similar attitude that would generally come off as rude and crotchety in most older people, but is dismissed by her bright sense of humor. The clip of her toasting herself with what appears to be a whiskey drink for being chosen in one of her early performances is especially amusing.
As for her music, my initial reaction was one of awe when I realized that she was actually improvising most of the singing in her live performances. Often times in live performance we see interaction between the singer and the band to drive the piece as a whole. With Anita, it seems as if she lets the band make the first move and then proceeds to fill in based on the music they’re creating, but never in sense where it seems lagging. The best analogy I could come up with is that of a rapper riding a beat. The best at their work know how to fill in the holes and complete a track rather than letting the beat control them. Anita perfectly demonstrates this. Mastering the music, while not overtaking the music.