Various Artists

Chiaroscuro Songbook, Vol. 1

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One of the things that rock, R&B, blues, and pop fans often find peculiar about jazz is the fact that it is dominated by instrumentalists; to be sure, vocalists are the majority, not the minority, in most popular musical genres. Over the years, instrumentalists have been the primary focus of Chiaroscuro Records, a fine jazz label that has put out a lot of swing and Dixieland as well as bop. When Chiaroscuro occasionally recorded vocals, the recordings were generally by instrumentalists who sang on the side or by singers who were guests of an instrumentalist. Spanning 1964-1992, this good-to-excellent collection turns its attention to some of those vocals, most of them swing or Dixieland. The CD's highlights range from Woody Herman's Louis Armstrong-ish take on "The Shiek of Araby" and a blues medley by Jimmy Rushing to Maxine Sullivan's thoughtful version of "One Hundred Years From Today." A 1989 performance of "Four or Five Times" gives listeners a rare chance to hear Joe Williams in a Dixieland setting, while "Good Time Charlie" (recorded in 1990) is an entertaining example of late-period Cab Calloway (who died in 1994). These recordings aren't among the artists' definitive work, but even so, this is a collection that fans of pre-bebop jazz singing will appreciate.

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