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Ultimate Joe Williams

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Album Review

Verve's Ultimate series unveils a new concept in the hackneyed concept of greatest-hits collections: instead of compilation producers, these albums feature tracks selected by figures who either worked with or were influenced by the artists themselves. The results are much more than your average best-of compilations; they're closer to treatises on the immense influence those artists exerted on generations to come, documenting exactly why they were special and deserve to be remembered. For vocalist Kevin Mahogany, the major figure in male jazz vocals during the '90s, the natural choice is none other than Joe Williams, the epitome of graceful swing. The collection begins with two versions of Williams' most popular song — "Every Day I Have the Blues" — recorded 30 years apart (Williams recorded only one full-length album released on Verve during the '50s, then returned to the label during the late '80s). Most of the rest of the songs are from Williams' later career at Verve, sophisticated swing selections like "How Deep Is the Ocean?," "Embraceable You," "I'm Beginning to See the Light," and "Sometimes I'm Happy." Williams himself participated in another volume of the Ultimate series by selecting songs for the Ella Fitzgerald compilation.


Born: December 12, 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 down as a teenager, Williams began performing at social events and formed his own gospel vocal quartet, the Jubilee Boys. By...
Full Bio

Top Albums and Songs by Joe Williams