For a decade from the late 1940s Teresa Brewer was one of the biggest singing stars in world, with a series of Top 10 hits including two #1s. When her contract with Decca’s Coral label ended she was snapped up by the new US Philips imprint. By then times were changing, not only with the advent of rock’n’roll, but a new generation of pop singers looking to replace the established acts. Brewer took it all in her stride, releasing albums, but spending most of the 1960s raising her four daughters, happy not to be pushing for stardom.
By the 1970s her girls were grown up and her marriage had ended. She renewed a professional relationship with her old A&R man Bob Thiele, whom she went on to marry. With her interest in music renewed, she signed to Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label and began to play club shows. It was immediately clear she had developed as a singer, and her initial releases updated her pop sound.
Thiele then suggested she make an album with Count Basie, whose recent Flying Dutchman LP, “Afrique”, had shown him to be in top form. The pair chose to record a selection of numbers made famous by Bessie Smith. Rather than try to ape Smith’s style, Brewer did the songs her own way, and Basie’s band provided sympathetic and dynamic backing, ably arranged by Thad Jones. The greatest compliment paid to the record was by Duke Ellington, who asked Brewer when she would make an album with him.
Ellington and his band were in the studio with Brewer just a few months later. They recorded versions of some of Ellington’s biggest hits and hidden gems from his catalogue, plus two numbers that had never been recorded before. Brewer and the band were at the top of their game, and a very special album resulted. Poignantly, these proved to be the final studio recordings for Ellington, who died the following year.