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Complete Jazz Series: Billy Eckstine 1947

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Album Review

This is an eclectic compilation of songs from albums Billy Eckstine cut for Mercury in the late '50s and during the '60s. During this period Eckstine recorded with a number of different groups, with regard to both personnel and style, and the best of them are represented on this disc. There's the large orchestra of Eckstine's former musical director for over 40 years, Bobby Tucker, on "Somehow" and "On Green Dolphin Street" which frame the lushness of Eckstine's mellow, silky baritone. Eckstine also collaborates with a smaller group resulting in more of a jazzy feel. On "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" and "Lullaby of the Leaves" he teams with a small group led by Pete Rugolo. On the former cut, you can hear the lyrical trumpet of Don Fagerquist behind Eckstine. Fagerquist's trumpet has enhanced the albums of many vocalists over his career including Ella Fitzgerald, Jeri Southern, and June Christy. "Lullaby of the Leaves," done as a medium swing piece, features Larry Bunker's vibes and Gerry Wiggins' understated piano. A large band directed by Quincy Jones is behind Eckstine on one of the highlights of the album, the Duke Ellington medley. The Jones' aggregation is loaded with some of the top sidemen of the era including Joe Newman on trumpet, Britt Woodman on trombone and Phil Woods on alto. There's a "Hits Medley" featuring tunes especially associated with Eckstine headed by "Everything I Have Is Yours." Some cuts may be over-arranged, and too lush and pop-oriented for jazz vocal aficionados, such as "I Wanna Talk About You," replete with strings and women's chorus. However, these in no way detract from the overall attractiveness of the album. While Eckstine's Mercury albums of this period didn't reach the musical heights of his more jazz/bop-oriented work during the late '40s; they nonetheless testify to Eckstine's strong, vibrant voice — a strength that made him one of the most popular vocalists of the era.


Born: 08 July 1914 in Pittsburgh, PA

Genre: Jazz

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

Billy Eckstine's smooth baritone and distinctive vibrato broke down barriers throughout the 1940s, first as leader of the original bop big band, then as the first romantic black male in popular music. An influence looming large in the cultural development of soul and R&B singers from Sam Cooke to Prince, Eckstine was able to play it straight on his pop hits "Prisoner of Love," "My Foolish Heart" and "I Apologize." Born in Pittsburgh but raised in Washington, D.C., Eckstine began singing at the age...
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Complete Jazz Series: Billy Eckstine 1947, Billy Eckstine
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