Grammy-nommed jazz singer Etta Jones, whose partnership with saxophonist Houston Person extended over 30-plus years, died of cancer Tuesday at her home in the Bronx. She was 72.
Born in Aiken, S.C., Jones grew up in New York and began her recording career in 1944, singing with Barney Bigard. Among the four songs she sang at her first session was “Evil Gal Blues,” a song that would later become a major hit for Dinah Washington.
Jones’ biggest hit came in 1960 with “Don’t Go To Strangers,” a million-selling single that earned her a gold record and became her signature number.
Jones recorded for Prestige in the early 1960s and then went through a fallow period that ended when she started recording for the Muse label (which became High Note) in 1976.
In 1968, while in Washington, D.C., for a gig, she was teamed up with the young Peason and his trio. Person and Jones toured and recorded together until her death and always shared equal billing. Person also became her manager and record producer through 18 records.
She had three Grammy nominations, for the “Don’t Go to Strangers” LP in 1960, “Save Your Love for Me” in 1981 and “My Buddy” in 1999, but she never recorded for a major label.
Her final High Note album appeared in stores on the day she died, “Etta Jones Sings Lady Day.”
Jones is survived by her husband, John Medlock; a granddaughter; and two sisters.
A memorial service will be held at Saint Peter’s Church in New York on Nov. 25.