One of the most popular singers of the 1926-37 period, Ruth Etting (1897-1978) may not have technically been a jazz singer since she did not improvise much, but she brought a jazz sensibility and a highly appealing sound to her interpretations of the pop songs of the era. Her marriage to the gangster Martin “Moe the Gimp” Snyder initially helped her career although his erratic and often-violent behavior resulted in her retirement in 1937, not counting a brief return a decade later.
The Retrospective label has reissued 51 of Etting’s finest recordings on the two-CD set Love Me Or Leave Me, about a fourth of her output. Programmed mostly in chronological order, the set does an excellent job of covering the singer’s career. Along with some rarities, her hits are here including “Love Me Or Leave Me,” “It All Depends On You,” “Shaking The Blues Away,” “You’re The Cream In My Coffee,” “Button Up Your Overcoat,” “Mean To Me,” and “Ten Cents A Dance,” and “Shine On, Harvest Moon.”
Her backup musicians include guitarist Eddie Lang, pianist Rube Bloom, Ted Lewis’ band, the Dorsey Brothers, and violinist Joe Venuti. As a bonus, Doris Day’s version of “Love Me Or Leave Me” is included since Day depicted Etting in the film of the same name.
The music consistently swings, Ruth Etting’s voice still sounds fresh and enthusiastic, and the performances are a consistent delight.