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The Definitive Joe Williams

Joe Williams

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Album Review

The Definitive Joe Williams takes a look back at the illustrious career of one of the greatest singers in the history of music. The 19 tracks are drawn from his two stints recording for Verve and his prolific stay with Roulette. The CD kicks off with four tracks from the great Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings record from 1955 including spectacular versions of "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "All Right, Okay, You Win" that leave no doubt in the listener's mind that Joe Williams could swing until the cows, chickens, and even ducks came home. Two songs, one of which is the rockingest version of "Singin' in the Rain" you'll likely ever hear, from the follow-up record from 1956, The Greatest! Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings Standards, are next, followed by a duet with Ella Fitzgerald. They both show off their prodigious scat talents, and Ella wins the duel but only just. Williams left Basie in the late '50s and signed with Roulette. His music still had tons of swing, but he also delved into pop songs and lush balladry. Tracks like 1958's "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight" demonstrate the tender side of Williams, romantic but not mushy, nothing but perfect love songs. His trumpet man of choice was Harry "Sweets" Edison on many of his Roulette dates: four of the tracks collected here feature Edison's sweet tone. After a heartstring-tugging take on Ellington's "Come Sunday" with the Mel Lewis/Thad Jones big band recorded in 1966, the CD has three tracks from Williams' triumphant return to the Verve label in the late '80s. The live, small group setting is perfect for his still strong voice. The disc ends with a quietly swinging take on the holiday chestnut "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" with Williams backed by the piano of Ellis Larkins. This disc is a great summing up of a great career. Fans of Williams and fans of vocal jazz alike will find this CD a real kick.

Biography

Born: 12 December 1918 in Cordele, GA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Joe Williams was the last great big-band singer, a smooth baritone who graced the rejuvenated Count Basie Orchestra during the 1950s and captivated audiences well into the '90s. Born in Georgia, he moved to Chicago with his grandmother at the age of three. Reunited with his mother, she taught him to play the piano and took him to the symphony. Though tuberculosis slowed him...
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The Definitive Joe Williams, Joe Williams
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