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Album Review

Al Hibbler took advantage of Duke Ellington's policy of letting members of his orchestra record on their own as he made these cuts for the Chess label over a period of two years in the late '40s. While singularly expressive, Hibbler had not yet adopted the exaggerated delivery style that was to characterize his later recordings. But he already had that quasi-Cockney accent he used on the final lines, sounding much like a precursor of Anthony Newley. Accent or not, this is some of Hibbler's better work outside of the Ellington organization, notwithstanding his big hit to come, "Unchained Melody." Helped out by some outstanding jazz musicians, most from the Ellington band, he takes his comparatively unaffected rich, full baritone through a play list of ballads, blues, and up-tempo material. Ben Webster makes an appearance on "I Love You," where he engages in a call and response with Hibbler. The singer does some bop-tinged scatting on "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing." This track has a plunger-mute trombone solo by Tyree Glenn as well as some singular trumpet by Taft Jordan. Hibbler's ingrained sentimentality comes through the song that was a hit for the Ink Spots, "What Will I Tell My Heart." Although the transfer from the original masters is a bit uneven and there are only 26 minutes of music provided, this is a good representative sample of Hibbler's early work.


Born: 16 August 1915 in Tyro, MS

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Not just a distinctive singer but a true vocal wonder, Al Hibbler featured with Duke Ellington's Orchestra throughout the 1940s and recorded a few hits ("Unchained Melody," "After the Lights Go Down Low," "He") on his own for Decca and Atlantic during the '50s and '60s. His frequent use of a Cockney accent and non-subtle growling techniques kept listeners on their toes though, far from a novelty act, Hibbler's voice was strong, emotive, and masculine, with a steady vibrato that carried every record...
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Solitude, Al Hibbler
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