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Ada Moore

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Biography

A strikingly potent and unusual vocalist who continues to be overlooked even by seasoned jazz heads. Little is known about her life, and only three distinct phases of her brief career are discussable until more information surfaces. Ada Moore recorded for the Debut label in 1954, backed by an amazing chamber jazz ensemble that included guitarist Tal Farlow, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and alto saxophonist John La Porta. Arrangements were by Charles Mingus and Alonzo Levister. The original album cover (Jazz Workshop, Vol. 3) provides what is possibly the only easily obtainable photograph of Moore. Cast in various shades of blue, the photo shows her lovely Afro-American profile in silhouette. The artist appears to be absorbed in her own thoughts. Moore sang in a disarmingly deep and somewhat wry alto, bringing irony to "You Came a Long Way from St. Louis" and pathos to Billy Strayhorn's "Something to Live For." The immediate and sustained impression is that of a film noir soundtrack. While some have compared her to Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, nobody has ever sounded quite like Ada Moore. An historical comparison might be made with the equally under-recorded Anna Robinson, whose entire discography consists of two three-minute recordings made in 1939 with James P. Johnson's Orchestra. Both women sang with unconventional force, using textures that obviously did not conform to popular expectations. Moore's career briefly took a turn for the popular as she appeared in Harold Arlen's House of Flowers, a Broadway musical set in the West Indies that opened December 30, 1954 and closed May 21, 1955. This production starred Pearl Bailey, Alvin Ailey, and, in her Broadway debut, Diahann Carroll. Ada Moore was cast as Gladiola. She performed "exotic" novelty numbers in the company of Enid Mosier, whose character's name was Pansy. Night after night they enunciated their way through songs with profound titles like "Two Ladies in the Shade of de Banana Tree." If this seems to be artistically far removed from that cool Debut session, the next item lands somewhere between the two extremes. In 1956, Moore was paired with Jimmy Rushing in front of a band led by Buck Clayton. They were the stars of "Cat Meets Chick," a concept album typical of its day. Surrounded by excellent musicians, Moore was able to maintain artistic integrity despite the goofily contrived premise of the album's theatrical structure, a love triangle plot devised by Columbia Records producer Irving Townsend. Following this concession to popular taste, her career as a recording artist seems to have ended. Thirty-four years later, Ada Moore died of cancer on January 6, 1991. Those who are curious about her singing style should investigate the aforementioned Jazz Workshop, Vol. 3 on Debut. It endures as the ultimate example of this woman's unique and unforgettable artistry.

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