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Music of Manhattan, 1951

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Album Review

Lee Wiley was a mysterious, enigmatic figure; a subtle singer, she was both introverted and sensual. Although Wiley mostly stuck reasonably close to the melodies she sang (and never scatted), her phrasing uplifted each of the standards that she interpreted, and she improvised just enough to be considered a jazz singer. This particular CD contains mostly live and rare material dating from 1951-1952. At the time, after a few years off records, Wiley was having a slight comeback with her Columbia LP Night in Manhattan. There are 23 titles on this CD, taken from nine different occasions; some of the songs are repeated ("Manhattan" and "I've Got a Crush on You" pop up three times apiece) but one's interest is held throughout. Highlights include "Oh, Look at Me Now," "Ghost of a Chance," and two versions apiece of "Sugar" and "Street of Dreams." Among the key sidemen in the small group sessions (one song has the Ray Bloch Orchestra) are pianist Joe Buskin, trumpeter Billy Butterfield, cornetist Muggsy Spanier (in top form), trumpeter Buck Clayton, and a Dixieland band that includes trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen. Although not as essential as her earlier songbooks, which are available on the Audiophile label, this collection of former rarities (some of the titles were previously out on the Memories Lightest, Yadeon, or Jass labels, but seven had never been issued before) is highly recommended to Lee Wiley fans, particularly since the singer did not record that much later in her career. The liner notes by Will Friedwald are an additional plus, containing interesting anecdotes by some of Wiley's famous friends.


Born: 09 October 1910 in Fort Gibson, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

Her husky, surprisingly sensual voice and exquisitely cool readings of pop standards distinguished her singing, but Lee Wiley earns notice as one of the best early jazz singers by recognizing the superiority of American popular song and organizing a set of songs around a common composer or theme -- later popularized as the songbook or concept LP. She was also a songwriter in her own right, and one of the few white vocalists with more respect in the jazz community than the popular one. Even more tragic...
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Music of Manhattan, 1951, Lee Wiley
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