Strongly influenced by Billie Holiday and one of the better big band "girl" singers, Mary Ann McCall worked with outfits led by Charlie Barnet, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Ventura, and Woody Herman. In 1950, the year she left Herman, she was voted best singer by several jazz magazines including DownBeat. At this stage of her career, her style took a decided turn toward jazz as she began singing with more of the top jazz performers of the day, including her husband, tenor saxophonist Al Cohn. Detour to the Moon captures McCall at her artistic peak. Performing in two different musical settings created by Teddy Charles, the musical director for the session, she works through a program of 12 tunes, all but one with the word "moon" in it. For six of the album's tracks the accompaniment was principally string -- cello, viola, bass and guitar -- along with Charles on vibes. This musical arrangement is especially compelling on "Moonlight Becomes You" and the title tune, "Detour Ahead." The violist is Walter Trampler, perhaps the leading performer on that instrument in the world at that particular time. For the other configuration, the backing was provided by a more traditional instrumental format, including Charles on vibes, Jimmy Raney on guitar, Mal Waldron on piano, and Oscar Pettiford on bass. This less somber mix goes well with such livelier tracks as "Shine on Harvest Moon" and "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)." Although McCall sang well into the '70s, she continued to be plagued by a significant addiction to drugs. Nonetheless, during the '50s she was among the top white female vocalists along with Chris Connor, June Christy, and Anita O'Day. It's criminal that this LP and her other major disc, Easy Living, where she's backed by a band headed by Ernie Wilkens, have not been transferred to CD. ~ Dave Nathan
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