The recording dates back to 1991 when Clooney was a guest on "Piano Jazz," McPartland’s celebrated show on National Public Radio. The conversation and music are so genuinely warm that it seems as if the women forgot a microphone was recording every word. Their chat is the same one they probably would have had if they had met for lunch.
Clooney reflects on her early days singing with her sister, Betty. She also speaks about balancing a high-profile singing career while having five children in five years. "You know what Bob Hope calls it?" quips Clooney. "Vatican roulette."
One of the most interesting stories comes as she recalls the making of "Blue Rose," her 1956 recording with Duke Ellington. It’s one of the standouts of her stellar career. Clooney fondly recalls the advice that legendary Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn gave her as she prepared for her wordless vocals on the title song.
"The great direction came from Billy," she says. ".... The one piece of direction that he gave me that I remember so clearly. He said ‘Blue Rose’ is not really a performance piece for you. You are in your room, and you are getting ready to go out on a really sensational date. Duke’s band is on the radio on your dressing table. As you’re brushing your hair, you are singing along with it. That’s the attitude I want.’"
McPartland is the perfect host. She’s smart and witty in her own right while never stealing attention from her guests. The Jazz Alliance has issued other recordings from her "Piano Jazz" archives, including shows with Dave Brubeck and Dizzy Gillespie.
In addition to the insightful conversation, the Clooney recording features several musical numbers. Accompanied by McPartland on piano, Clooney offers an endearing rendition of "Don’t Fence Me In," which naturally leads into stories about Cole Porter.
The women also collaborate on "Love Is Here To Stay," "My Shining Hour," and "September Song."
Clooney, who passed away in 2002, was one of the country’s most beloved singers. Listening to this CD, it's easy to understand why. She was warm and candid, and her music reflected those qualities.